End the sale of peat moss compost in the retail sector


End the sale of peat moss compost in the retail sector 


The Irish Peatland Conservation Council are calling on the government to end the sale of peat moss compost in the retail sector by the end of 2024.

In 2015, The National Peatlands Strategy was published by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. This publication set out the actions that government must work towards in developing a national strategy in responsibly and sustainably managing Ireland’s peat resources while being cognisant of the many stakeholders and issues surrounding Ireland’s relationship with peat, climate change and biodiversity decline.

Action 5 in the Strategy specified that “A review of the use of peat in the horticultural industry will be undertaken”. Following this, in 2020 an “Issues Paper” was published for public consultation where a range of stakeholders made their concerns known regarding their relationship with peat and peatland habitat.   One of the recommendations from the Issues Paper report was that there needs to be a working group established to discuss the issues highlighted and make recommendations to the government on the how the horticultural industry could make a move to end the use of peat, propelling the industry into a sustainable and responsible footing.

The working group, consisting of horticulturalists, mushroom growers, environmental groups, Bord na Móna, Teagasc and the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage convened twelve times in 2021 and discussed a range of issues including the availability of peat alternatives and how a ban on peat use may impose losses to jobs and the economy. The final report by the chairman of the working group presented a timeline for actions and responsibilities for the industry and government departments.  The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, in conjunction with the Departments of Environment, Climate and Communications and Housing, Local Government and Heritage responded to this report by issuing a working paper which the Irish Peatland Conservation Council did not support.  The governments working paper failed to set a timeline for the transition from peat even though a timeline was presented in the working group chairmans report and that too much focus was on navigating peat extraction regulatory system to suit the industry.

One example of where action should now be taken for the transition from peat in the horticultural industry is Action 15 of the working group chairmans report which states ‘Peat usage in the retail sector should be eliminated by 2025 providing suitable alternatives are available’ by Quarter 4 2024.   As the first quarter of 2024 has ended the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (IPCC) have yet to hear any talk from government of peat being removed from the shelves of gardening centres and retail outlets nationwide even though peat free compost is available and for sale.  The IPCC have also not heard from retailers or government preparing consumers and amateur gardeners for the change to peat free, which will need a national education programme as we relearn the skills in gardening lost through the over-use of peat.

 While the Irish Peatland Conservation Council understand that there needs to be a responsible transition away from peat extraction for horticulture, for food security and the economy, we also understand the retail sector is an area where peat is not needed and which the extraction of peat directly affects Ireland’s biodiversity – helping to push it into decline by removing natural habitats to grow mostly non-native plants in our gardens. Using peat in the garden also fuels climate change, as the destruction of the peatland releases carbon into our waterways and air.

 At a time when other countries have committed to banning the use of peat to the private gardener by 2024 because of the environmental implications should Ireland not also respect our own peatlands and become stewards of the wet and wild peatlands of Ireland through ending the sale of peat moss compost in the retail sector this year?

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