Tesco to go peat-free on all UK bedding plants to help environment

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A supermarket chain has said it will be the first UK retailer to go peat-free on its British-grown bedding plants in a move designed to lower its carbon footprint.

Tesco announced in March last year that it was reducing its use of the material by 95% from April 2022, and it will stop all use of peat in the range from Monday.

It said it would have made the move to a 100% peat-free range sooner, but a peat-free alternative was not available at the time.

Plant suppliers to Tesco Bridge Farm Horticulture, based in Spalding, Lincolnshire, are using alternatives such as wood fibre and natural by-products for the bedding plants.

Louise Motala, Bridge Farm Horticulture managing director, said: “We felt as strongly as Tesco that it was an important step to remove all peat from our compost formulations.

“To enable us to do so we have started propagating the majority of our seed and cutting young plants ourselves.

Tesco go peat-free on bedding plants
Violas growing at Bridge Farm Nurseries in Spalding, Lincolnshire, one of the largest growers of ornamental flowers in the UK (Joe Giddens/PA)

Peat is a layer of soil made primarily of partially decomposed plant material which has developed in waterlogged and low oxygen conditions.

Peat bogs are a carbon sink, meaning they soak up carbon dioxide emissions, helping in the fight against climate change.

Peat is still the most popular aid used by the horticulture industry to grow potting plants but when harvested, vast quantities of carbon are released into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change.

It will also help preserve the UK’s and Republic of Ireland’s peatlands, which provide a wealth of environmental benefits as well as being home to many rare plants, insects and birds.

Tesco is one of the UK’s largest sellers of bedding plants, with about 40 million sold each year.

Tesco go peat-free on bedding plants
Primroses growing at Bridge Farm Nurseries in Spalding, Lincolnshire (Joe Giddens/PA)

This has reduced the carbon footprint of these products by more than 1,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions a year – a reduction of 75% – the retailer said.

Earlier this year the supermarket started selling compost that is also completely peat-free.

Tesco horticulture category buying manager, Alex Edwards, said: “Going peat-free on our British-grown bedding plants is right for our customers – we’ve listened to their feedback and have worked hard to prove we can deliver the same great quality, but now being better for our planet.

“Looking ahead, we hope this approach can be adopted on a wider-scale – it’s our aim to deliver this across a broader range of plants and flowers.”

Tesco said it made the “climate-focused decision” to remove peat from the compost it uses in its British grown bedding plant range in April 2022.

It said that at the time a “viable alternative for peat wasn’t available for young plant propagation, which meant that a maximum of 5% peat remained in the compost formulation”, but this has now been addressed and it can go peat-free.

Tesco said its range of products supplied by the Bridge Farm Horticulture have all been successfully trialled in peat-free compost, with no impact on quality or product life.

Defra minister Trudy Harrison said: “I am confident this move will encourage other retailers to follow their forward-thinking example, as we move towards the complete ban for selling peat to amateur gardeners which comes into force in 2024.”

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