Peat usage

1.a) Does your local authority use peat in its horticultural practices? E.g. planting.

As an upper tier authority, we have only limited involvement in horticultural practices as we are not directly involved in management of urban parks or most public open space. However, in our contracts for grounds maintenance on our properties we do not specify use of peat or peat-based products.

Planting and other landscape works are sometimes required as part of highway and other capital works schemes. In these circumstances we use the following specifications related to landscape and ecology from the Manual of Contract Documents for Highway Works (Ref MCHW Vol 1) amended May 2006:

“Peat or peat-based products shall not be used, except:
i.Where peat is excavated on Site; or
ii.Where peat is required in Appendix 30/1; …” (Clause 3001-3):

“Compost shall be peat-free organic composted material graded less than 25 mm particle size and free from any non-biodegradable material, weed material or plant pathogens. It shall have an organic matter content greater than 35% on a dry matter basis and readily available trace elements. The pH, conductivity and nutrient composition shall be as required in Appendix 30/6. The compost shall be supplied with a volume tolerance of less than 5%”. (Clause 3006-14)

“All plants to be supplied shall be as scheduled in Appendix 30/6 and shall comply with BS 3936: Parts 1 to 10 as relevant, BS 4043, the National Plant Specification, published by the Horticultural Trades Association, and/or as otherwise required in Appendix 30/6. …” (Clause 3006-3)

Regarding the latter clause, it is possible that peat may be a constituent growing medium for some container-grown planting stock. However, we do not hold any information on whether container-grown plants we have specified have or have not contained peat.

b) If so, and if you are able to quantify, how much peat do you use a month (m3)?

We do not hold this information

c) Do you use peat raw, as part of a mixed compost, or in another way?

Please refer to our answer to question 1.a.  above.

2. a) Are any peat-free alternatives used instead?

Yes- as long as they satisfy the specification stated in answer to question 1.a.

b) If so, which ones, and in what quantities?

We do not hold records of information regarding use of peat-free alternatives so we do not hold this information

3. a) Have any efforts been made to reduce the amount of peat used?

We already avoid use of peat through our specifications for landscape works as stated in answer to question 1.a.

We operate an environmental policy which includes a regular review our environmental sustainable procurement practices. This ensures the environmental impact of goods and services is considered within our procurement decisions. We work with suppliers, contractors and tenants to lessen the environmental impacts of their operation.

b) If so, has this been a result of governmental policy/pressure, or other reasons? If other, please specify.

It has long been known and publicised that peat bogs are a finite resource providing valuable wildlife habitats and carbon sequestration, and that their depletion over past centuries has resulted in environmental harm. Many research papers have been published on this. The horticultural industry has made efforts to make available more environmentally acceptable alternatives to peat-based compost for example.

4. If possible, please provide any figures on your historic peat use, for comparison. If this is outsourced, any available details would be appreciated.

We do not hold this information.

5. Are there any plans to reduce future peat usage?

As stated in answer to Q 3.a, our procurement practices are under periodic review which allows us to keep up to date with industry standards and best practice.

6. What could be done to support you in a transition to peat-free growing media?

We refer to British Standards when specifying landscaping (BS8545:2014- ‘Trees from nursery to independence’ and BS3939- ‘Specification for nursery stock’). These are neutral with respect recommending peat-free compost as a growing medium for container-grown plants. It would therefore be useful if there were a BS, industry code of practice or best-practice guidance note that recommends container-grown plants grown in peat-free alternatives that we could refer to in our specifications.

It would be useful to have a national certification scheme that includes clear labelling of container-grown planting stock and compost as ‘peat-free’ that allows easy checking of compliance against specifications on site.