HTA Chairman James Barnes issues statement about peat fines

The Chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association (HTA), James Barnes, has issued a statement regarding a recent article in The Telegraph newspaper about government plans to introduce fines to garden centres selling peat compost. Mr Barnes said:

“The horticulture industry fully supports alternatives to peat. We commissioned independent research which outlined the range of barriers which need to be overcome. We are committed to working collaboratively with government, NGOs and the whole supply chain to deliver viable, responsibly sourced alternative materials – as part of our Sustainability Roadmap programme we will have proposed an industry strategy by February 2021.

“Progress is being made – our data shows that the amount of peat used in consumer-use compost is at the lowest levels since records began. However, we need Government to bring forward policies that will help deliver peat free alternatives – such as access to wood-based growing media, which goes for use to the power generating industries and investment in green waste. I am not sure the threat of fines for retailers is either helpful or necessary. Many garden centres already offer a significant range of peat-free alternatives. Two of the largest garden centre chains this weekend made commitments about peat elimination and reduction. Collaborative working and a full understanding of the sector is needed from Government”

The Telegraph article, ‘Garden centres will be handed hefty fines for failing to stop using peat compost under Government plans to crackdown on use’ was endorsed by BBC presenter, Monty Don, who has campaigned on this important environmental issue for years.

Monty commented: “Nothing justifies destroying peat bogs, both for the environmental issues and the way it contributes to climate change. It is time that all of us in the horticulture industry play our part in taking an active role in doing what we can to be environmentally friendly as policy.”

The presenter has come under fire for speaking out against his industry, with some garden centres boycotting Gardeners’ World Magazine because of his views on peat.

The government previously told the horticulture industry that they had a chance to voluntarily start to swap peat compost for other products by the end of 2020. Government sources told The Telegraph that this has not happened, so they are looking at robust legislative options, including financial sanctions for garden centres.

The measures are still being drawn up, but are likely to include hefty fines and enshrine the phasing out of peat products in law. These will be outlined early next year in the England Peat Strategy, alongside plans to fast-track a ban on the substance. Currently, the deadline is 2030.

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