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Conservation groups push for peat levy

Published: 21 February 2011
Conservation groups and gardening supplier Vital Earth are calling on the Government to introduce a £1 levy on peat products bought from garden centres to encourage customers to use peat-free alternatives.
Conservation groups push for peat levy
Supporters believe a levy of around £1 on a regular sized bag of peat compost would help offset the estimated £32m that peat costs society a year through carbon emissions alone.

DEFRA is currently consulting over its new voluntary initiative with a target of phasing out horticultural peat over the next two years. However, the RSPB feels this is not quick enough and that a levy is the only way to make a real difference and encourage customers to use peat-free alternatives.

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... A financial incentive is vital if we are to change the behaviour of consumers and encourage the horticultural industry to invest in alternatives."

The call has been backed by a number of conservation groups, including The Wiildlife Trusts, Plantlife, the Irish Peatland Conservation Council, as well as compost suppliers Vital earth.

Vital Earth md Steve Harper said: "The gardening industry should welcome a peat levy - it's one way towards a more level playing field for peat and the environmentally better, but more expensive to produce, alternatives. Without this, it's hard for the industry to invest in the change the Government would like to see happen to end the widespread use of peat."

The majority of peat sold in the UK is imported from Ireland and Baltic countries and it is hoped that money raised through the new tax could provide vital funding to help restore damaged peat bogs.

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 Government's consultation on phasing out peat-based products ends March 11, 2011.

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