Peat moss is about to be banned in England and Wales. Why is it so bad and why so many Australians still using it unknowingly?

What is Peat Moss?

Peat moss and sphagnum moss are types of moss that grows in peatlands and is widely used in potting mixes around the world.

Its high water retention rate and low pH makes it very favourable to use as the main ingredient in potting mix formulas.

Peat moss (below left) has a brown, slightly clumpy look and sphagnum moss (below right) has a light yellow-orange look just like short strands of spaghetti.

Source: amazon.com.au (left) and bunnings.com.au (right)

In Australia, commercial potting mix brands often use either peat or sphagnum moss, or both. You've probably seen it at Bunnings before, or perhaps you already have a bag of potting mix using peat!

Common mixes using peat are Scotts Osmocote Indoor Plants Premium Potting Mix and Debco's Indoor Premium Potting Mix. Pure sphagnum moss is also used to grow orchids.

 

Australia's popular potting mixes using peat. Source: bunnings.com.au (left) and flowerpower.com.au (right)

What is the issue?

Peatlands store about 30% of the world's soil carbon!

When we dig peat up from the ground, it releases tonnes of carbon dioxide and is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

Here's what the IUCN [1] says:

  • Emissions from drained peatlands are estimated at 1.9 gigatonnes of CO2e annually

  • This is equivalent to 5% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, a disproportionate amount considering damaged peatlands cover just 0.3% of landmass

  • Fires in Indonesian peatlands in 2015 emitted nearly 16 million tonnes of CO2 a day (i.e. three times more than the entire economy of Australia emits in a day [2])

  • Damage to peatlands causes biodiversity loss. For example, the Bornean orang-utan population declined by 60% due to loss of peatlands.

Parts of the UK are about to ban peat moss [3]. Closer to home in Australia, many of us are still using peat in our potting mixes and we need to start using alternatives.

Planthood's potting mixes are peat-free and reduce CO2 emissions by using coco coir, a more sustainable alternative.

What are the alternatives?

The two main alternatives to using peat moss are coco coir and compost.

Coir 
Coco coir is a renewable product made from coconut, specifically, the coconut husk.

Coco coir is perfect for creating an aerated soil base and has water retention capabilities, much like peat moss. These qualities allow coir to be ideal in helping grow strong and healthy roots.

Planthood's coco coir has been chosen for its superior quality and its consistent particle size. It has also been hydrated and is ready to use if you are making your own potting mix.


Compost
Compost is organic matter, such as leaves and food scraps which have been decomposed and recycled.

A good compost is wonderful for your plants. Unfortunately in Australia good compost can be hard to find because some composting facilities get financially rewarded the more "rubbish" they take in. 

When materials are not vetted before they go into the compost pile, there can be chemicals or materials that do not break down properly, producing compost that has no nutrients for your plant.

[1] https://www.iucn.org/resources/issues-briefs/peatlands-and-climate-change
[2] https://www.industry.gov.au/news/australias-greenhouse-gas-emissions-march-2021-quarterly-update
[3] https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/18/peat-sales-to-gardeners-in-england-and-wales-to-be-banned-by-2024

Read The Study to learn about the widespread use of fish, blood and bone in the indoor plant industry.

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