Could composted food waste replace peat?

Founder of Sizzle Innovation, Trewin Restorick, offers a sustainable alternative to peat by exploring how viable composted food waste could be as a solution.

For over 30 years, environmental groups have campaigned to ban the sale of peat but, despite many false dawns, it remains on sale. The Government has announced that a ban on peat sales to amateur English gardeners will come into force in 2024, but with current political uncertainties, it is debatable whether this will happen.

Peat is an excellent growing medium and to date, no cost-effective, sustainable replacement has been found at the scale required to meet industry requirements. The Garden Centre Association estimates that the annual shortfall is in the region of 1.7 million cubic metres.

With a potential ban looming, efforts to find a sustainable replacement need to hasten. There are some easy steps that the horticultural sector could quickly take.

With a potential ban looming, efforts to find a sustainable replacement need to hasten.

One is to better educate gardeners on how to use peat. A survey by the sector revealed that peat is often used as a mulch or soil improver rather than a growing medium. Composted green waste could equally fulfil this purpose and a simple switch would reduce the demand for peat and be more sustainable.

Garden centres could also improve how they use the food and green waste that they generate to create their own closed-loop solution to reduce waste levels, as well as act as a source of education and inspiration for customers. Whilst beneficial, these changes will not deliver at the scale required.

Could properly treated food waste be the answer? Horticulturalists believe that composted food waste could be a more than adequate peat replacement as it is water retentive and a stable growing medium.

However, it is currently not collected at the scale required to meet industry demands and there is no consistency in quality that can provide the industry with the certainty they require in the growing process. Might this change if the collection of food waste is mandated in 2025?

Might this change if the collection of food waste is mandated in 2025?

To explore this question, I have secured charitable grant funding for my new venture to undertake preliminary research. If the replacement of peat with composted food waste is to be viable, a complex jigsaw puzzle needs to be put together involving the waste industry, local authorities, horticulturalists, garden retailers, and the public.

Potentially, new collection methods will need to be explored. For instance, can businesses and households be encouraged to pre-compost their food waste to reduce the volume that needs to be collected?

The partly composted waste could be taken to a central point, where the quality could be controlled, and then packaged and sold to the horticulture sector.

I am at the early stages of the research and if you have a view and would like to participate please contact me at If a potential solution appears to be viable, the intention is to create a localised pilot scheme to test the validity and, hopefully, create a model that could be extended across the country, enabling a sustainable replacement to be found for peat.

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