Co-op bans sale of peat-based compost to reduce emissions

Retailer Co-op has introduced a ban on peat-based compost in a bid to help customers reduce their greenhouse gas emissions footprint and reach its own carbon commitments.

Co-op bans sale of peat-based compost to reduce emissions

UK peatlands store more than three billion tonnes of carbon

The Co-op will work with horticulture firm Westland to introduce more sustainable compost across 1,100 of its stores and forecourts. Westland has already invested £35m into a peat-free product.

UK peatlands store more than three billion tonnes of carbon, which is around three times more than UK woodlands. However, research suggests that just 20% of UK peatlands are still in a natural state, with farming and forestry contributing to the deterioration.

Co-op’s buyer for home and leisure Martin Spencer said: “We want to make it easier for our Members and customers to make small changes in their everyday lives which, together, add up to making a big difference to our environment.

“We are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our products and services, and looking for new and collaborative ways of working together with others to achieve those aims if we are to have a healthy, sustainable natural environment to pass on to future generations.”

The new compost will help Co-op reach its own sustainability commitments. The company has halved its emissions since 2006 and has committed to reducing emissions from running its business by a further 50% by 2025 through science-based targets.

Co-op has also committed to the British Retail Consortium’s (BRC) Climate Action Roadmap. The plan will help deliver a retail industry that will reach net-zero by 2040, including decarbonising stores by 2030, deliveries by 2035 and products by 2040.

At a national level, a group of conservationists and gardeners have written to the UK Government to introduce a national ban on the sale of peat compost.

The Government set a voluntary target to end the sale of peat-based compost back in 2011, but campaigners have described progress against this target as an “abject failure”.

In a letter to the environment secretary, George Eustice, seen by the Guardian, the letter, which was signed by the likes of Alan Titchmarsh, Kate Bradbury and James Wong and conservationist Isabella Tree, calls on the Government to raise ambitions in this area in the build-up to COP26.

The RSPB’s head of corporate partnerships Nicky O’Malley said: “It’s great to see the Co-op removing peat from all the composts it sells and leading the way to better gardening.  Peatlands are special places for plants and birds and need this kind of protection from exploitation.

“We look forward to continuing to support Co-op with their ambitious environmental commitments to combat the climate and biodiversity crises.”

Matt Mace

Comments (3)

  1. Keiron Shatwell says:

    Here’s the thing about peat. It washes off the land and into streams, rivers and lakes. Loch Ness is so full of peat that you can not see more than a few inches through the water and it is almost like Guinness it is that black with peat.

    There is a company that sustainably harvests this washed off peat by capturing it from streams and rivers. This kind of peat compost is actually beneficial as not only is it harvesting run off it reduces the amount of peat that ends up in waterways, blocking sunlight and preventing aquatic life.

    Not all peat is bad, just most of it.

  2. Lawrence Rose says:

    So why do we continue to import electricity from Ireland, where a proportion of it is generated by burning peat?

    We don’t have to include that in our emissions as it’s burnt overseas, but we’re still using it.

    And for those who think your electricity supplier provides them with 100% renewable electricity, they don’t. They supply renewable electricity to the National Grid (or pay them for it), but the National Grid provides you with the same electricity as everybody else – unless you generate you own.

    So, even Ecotricity, Octopus, etc. customers are using electricity from peat regularly, i.e. about 70% of days in 2021 so far.

  3. Lawrence Rose says:

    Just to be clear, peatlands are essential for many reasons, including their role in storing carbon, improving water quality, reducing flood risk, providing homes for wildlife, etc.

    We should be preserving and extending peatlands, not burning them or using them to improve our gardens (even though peat is very good at that – I’m a gardener!)

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