Environment Secretary Hilary Benn today urged garden centres andretailers to adopt clearer labelling of compost containing peat, to reduce the harm to wildlife and the environment due to its use.

Peat bogs are an important store of carbon emissions, but peat dug up in Britain for garden compost releases almost half-a-million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – the equivalent of 100,000 cars on the road.

Peat use by gardeners dropped for the first time in 2007 (from 3.4 million cubic metres to 3.01 million cubic metres) with 54 per cent of the growing media market peat-free.

Before visiting the Chelsea Flower Show, Mr Benn said: “Peat harvested for gardening seriously damages rare wildlife habitats and contributes to climate change.

“Gardeners care about the environment. All compost should be labelled clearly so that they can make informed choices about what they use.

“Species such as the curlew and white-faced darter dragonfly find their homes on our peat bogs, more than three-quarters of which have already been permanently damaged.

“There are many alternatives to using peat in the garden, and for the first time over 50 per cent of the compost market is peat free. If compost is not clearly labelled, people should ask retailers what type they sell, and ask for alternatives.”

Mr Benn will meet gardeners at the Chelsea Flower Show and visit a garden designed by the government-funded UK Climate Impacts Programme demonstrating the effect of climate change on gardens.

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