Major UK retailer goes peat-free

Environmentalists said that the long-term future of some of the UK’s finest wildlife sites has been given a considerable boost with the announcement that B&Q plans to stop the sale of peat.

The UK’s leading home and garden chain, with 30% of the market share, announced the move on 16 April, following concerns over the environmental impacts of peat extraction (see related story) on lowland raised peat bogs, which are amongst the most important and valuable wildlife habitats in the UK. Despite being home to many important species of birds, a wealth of unusual plants and thousands of rare insect species, only a fragment of near-natural bog remains nationwide.

Environmentalists are pleased with B&Q’s move and Friends of the Earth (FOE) says that it “will send shock waves through the…home and gardening retail sector and should lead to a rush of investment into composting facilities for the production of peat-free alternatives.” The group points to a poll in the latest edition of BBC Gardeners World Magazine suggesting that 74% would support a peat ban.

B&Q ranks top in the environmental NGO’s league table on peat retailers in the UK, where it assesses whether or not peat sold comes from protected areas, if there is a range of peat-free products on sale and whether stores plan to eliminate peat sales. In distant second and third place are Homebase and Focus-Do-It-All and Wyevale Country Gardens and Tesco ranked bottom. However, FOE, criticised Asda for not responding to its questionnaire.

B&Q’s new peat policy acknowledges the unsustainable nature of peat extraction, and the damage it is causing to wildlife sites in the UK and abroad. The company has set a broad target of eliminating all peat sales over the next ten years and committed to peat-free dilution strategies for each individual peat product. At present, only 27% of B&Q’s growing media and soil conditioner sales are peat-free, but FOE says, by 2006, the figure will be 85%, at which point there will be a progress review and new targets set for going completely peat free. The strategy applies to the whole product range, not just own-label and nurseries supplying B&Q. Plants grown in peat will also have to meet the targets.

The retailer has also committed itself to clear labelling on all products, showing exactly the percentage composition of peat / peat-free and it intends to increase their range of entirely peat-free products.

“B&Q are now the clear leader amongst growing media retailers, and they have set a standard for others to follow,” commented Craig Bennett, Peat Campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “The public clearly want it, and there should now be no excuses, if they can do it when they B&Q it, why can’t the other retailers go peat-free also?”

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