Join and help
8 February 2011
You can enjoy peatland at many of our reserves, including Campfield Marsh in Cumbria
Image: Andy Hay
UPDATE: The UK Government's Budget on 23 March means that this campaign is likely to change direction quickly.We will update this page as soon as the outcomes of the Budget are clearer. Watch this space!
Peatland is one of our most precious and endangered resources, yet intensive agriculture, drainage and peat extraction continue to take their toll. Today only 1% of England's pristine lowland peat bog remains intact.
For over two decades, we have been campaigning to protect these vitally important places. They provide habitats for rare bird and insect species including snipe, curlews, large heath butterflies and dragonflies, as well as plants such as carnivorous sundews and butterworts.
Peat extraction to produce compost has contributed to the destruction of 94% of lowland raised bog habitat, a rare and slow-forming habitat, in the UK. We currently use some three billion litres of peat every year in our gardens.
It has been more profitable for compost suppliers to use peat than alternative materials, and there has been the sense amongst gardeners that peat-free composts are not as effective.
Yet garden trials commissioned by the consumer group Which? in March 2010 showed that peat-free composts outperformed the best peat-based counterparts.
Going peat-free would also help us tackle waste and landfill, as peat-free compost is predominantly made up of by-product materials from other industries, such as wood waste and green compost.
Last year's spending review resulted in dramatic reductions to the overall funding for the natural environment. Since then, we have been calling for innovative ways to raise money for conservation in this time of austerity. The upcoming budget provides us with an excellent opportunity do this and to help UK gardeners go peat-free.
The UK Government must show greater strength on this issue, giving consumers and industry real incentives to switch to peat alternatives by introducing a levy onto the sale of peat-based composts.
Amateur gardening accounts for 69% of peat compost used in the UK
A levy on peat compost would increase its price and encourage consumers to switch to the more effective peat-free alternatives. These would remain the same price. This would help create a market where business no longer needs to extract peat from lowland bogs, and could instead focus on investing in alternatives. This in turn would boost UK recycling, and make better use of our waste.
Help make sure that peat use in compost is phased out completely by writing to your MP and asking them to contact the Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Justine Greening, to call for a levy on peat-based composts to be introduced in the budget on 23 March. Please also ask your MP to send a copy of their letter to Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs.
Here are some points you may like to include in your letter:
Please send your letters as soon as possible to ensure that they reach the Treasury in time for consideration before the budget is announced.
You can find out who your MP is by visiting the Find your MP website using the link on the right of this page. All MPs can be contacted by writing to them at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.
Please also send copies of your letters and any replies to: Ceri Smith, Peat levy campaign, FREEPOST ANG6335, The RSPB, UK Headquarters, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2BR. Alternatively, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for your support. Your efforts make all the difference.