CONSUMERS are not being given enough help in choosing peat-free compost, according to a survey by environmental organisations.

Last month, 238 volunteers responded to a survey by Friends of the Earth, Plantlife, the RSPB and the 47 Wildlife Trusts, (including Northumberland Wildlife Trust) which revealed a lack of real choice for gardeners looking for peat-free composts.

Only a third of respondents said they could find peat-free compost clearly available at their local garden, DIY centres or supermarkets, and most reported a lack of product choice, price incentive or clear labelling to encourage them to buy peat-free.

Based on the survey’s findings, environmental industry figures show that peat still accounts for more than half of the total material used in bagged composts, and across the UK garden industry, more than 2 million cubic metres of peat was used in 2015.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust’s head of living landscapes Duncan Hutt said: “Gardeners can make a real difference by not buying peat-based products, but the garden trade is failing in its duty to phase out peat and give its customers real choice to go peat-free.

“Peatlands are the UK’s rainforest, locking up over 400,000 tonnes of carbon per year, slowing floodwaters, filtering drinking water and providing a unique landscape, habitat and home for wildlife.

“We need to act faster and together everywhere – landowners and the Government – to turn things round and put all our peatlands back into good health.”

Peatland is home to a variety of scarce and unique wildlife and stores vast amounts of carbon, which must be kept in the ground to avoid contributing to climate change. A loss of only five per cent of UK peatland carbon would be equal to the UK’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.

These bogs also act like a sponge, soaking up rainwater, and can help to reduce flood risk.

Water filtered through healthy peat bogs is of a higher quality than water from degraded bogs, making it cheaper to treat as drinking water.

In this region, Northumberland Wildlife Trust has worked tirelessly to protect the region’s peatlands – especially the Border Mires around Kielder.

The Border Mires are a massive store of carbon. They capture and hold large volumes of water – the drinking water supply for millions of people in this area comes from these peat landscapes.

If they are helped to recover, they will help the UK respond to climate change and save money for society in the long term.