Call for levy to protect Ireland’s peat bogs

Conservation groups and gardening suppliers are calling on the government to introduce a levy on peat to persuade gardeners to consider alternative compost.

Peat bogs are a vital carbon sink and the extraction and use of peat releases carbon dioxide and destroys the habitat of a wide variety of wildlife.

The RSPB has published a report saying the government’s attempts to phase out peat have failed and Defra’s planned voluntary initiative will not work.

The Society is recommending a £1 levy on a regular-sized bag of peat based compost, to encourage consumers to choose peat-free alternatives.

The levy could also be used, it says, to fund the restoration of damaged peat bogs across the UK.

The majority of the peat sold in the UK comes from Ireland and the Baltic countes. The call for a levy is backed by the Irish Peatland Conservation Council.

Irish Peatland Conservation Council chief executive, Catherine O’Connell, said: “Our bogs need your levy.

“Irish peat bogs are being torn apart to supply British gardeners with their bags of peat compost – we’re now your major peat source.

“A retail levy will help consumers to choose composts not on price, but on their relative merits.”

The RSPB says that the market for peat based compost in the UK is responsible for 630,000 tonnes of carbon emissions a year – the equivalent of an extra 300,000 cars on our roads.

They claim that according to UK Government figures, the cost to society of peat through carbon emissions alone is £11 per cubic metre – around £32million a year in the UK.

RSPB conservation director, Mark Avery, said: “It really is incredible that a product as hugely damaging to our environment as peat is still being widely consumed in the UK.

“Despite attempts to tackle this issue in the 1990s, little has been achieved aside from exporting damaging peat extraction overseas.

“We have got rid of lead in our petrol, CFCs in our aerosols and DDT in our countryside – so why is this dinosaur industry still lumbering along causing untold damage to our environment?”

The Government’s current consultation on phasing out peat based products ends on 11 March 2011.

Alison Brown

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