ITV’s The Trouble with Garden Centres asked if garden centres are cutting corners when it comes to the environment. The programme focussed on peat, plastic pots and imported plants.
The Problem with Peat
The programme estimated that each year UK gardeners consume enough peat to fill 23 Albert Halls. To supply them a unique natural habitat is being shattered by machines, devastating a treasured eco-system and releasing CO2.
Gardeners who habitually used peat, were horrified, one calling it industrial vandalism, and vowed to try alternatives.
Some were pleased with results of the alternatives, others had mixed success. Another said that peat-free contents were too inconsistent and contained bits of wire, bamboo cane and wood.
The programme visited 10 garden centres looking at the information buyers get and said the labelling was unclear about how much peat was contained. One ‘compost expert’ called for compulsory environmental warnings to be printed on bags, as on cigarettes, so customers have a choice.
There was a similar problem with lavender plants. In 20 garden centres, 1 in 5 had no information where they were grown. It was also suggested that the plants should have information about the content of their compost and the pesticides used.
Consumers should play their part
Gardeners were called on to play their part by buying peat free compost and by making their own, with a compost maker.
500 million plastic pots
The programme also addressed the 500m plastic plant pots produced every year for the UK market. It claimed that of 100 garden centres surveyed 78 offered no recycling or exchange scheme for the plastic pots.
87% of councils will not recycle black pots so the industry is changing from black to taupe (and other colours) pots which are made from recycled plastic and can be recycled.
Stop alien invaders - Buy British
The third strand of the programme covered the threat from imported plants, with Matt Shardlow, the chief executive of Buglife, explaining how alien invaders such as a giant Egyptian grasshopper and an Australian flat worm have been found in imported plants.
Invasive species are damaging our ability to grow trees, feed ourselves and have a healthy ecosystem. The solution is to buy UK grown plants.
The industry is responding
Chairman of the HTA James Barnes agreed the 2020 target for peat would be very difficult to reach. The industry has reduced peat content to 56%, but he said it is critical that the industry reaches a solution that is genuinely sustainable and plans to launch a responsible sourcing scheme later this year.
From December all plants will have passports to improve traceability. And next spring UK nurseries will implement a Plant Health Assurance Scheme to show growers have the appropriate standards to protect against importing alien insects and disease.
Addressing plastic pots, James Barnes said that the challenge was to persuade councils that the taupe pot is a genuinely recycled product.
The programme acknowledged that the industry is responding to the environmental challenge and big changes are coming.