As the largest own-brand supplier of growing media and barks in the UK, Bord na Móna is driven by delivering exceptional products to market. Across the group it specialises in renewable energy, horticulture, resource recovery and eco-fuels, and sees the importance of helping the UK government to hit its target of reaching zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Bord Na Móna’s ‘Brown to Green’ strategy has spearheaded the company’s intent to support the national climate and energy policy. Its aim is to speed up the development of renewable energy assets, as well as accelerating investment in higher-value recycling and resource recovery business.
Steve Harper, UK Head of Commercial and Marketing at Bord na Móna, keeps his finger on the ‘peat vs peat-free’ pulse to ensure that Bord Na Móna can stay ahead of the curve.
“The UK government has issued a number of targets over the years, such as the aim for all soil improvers and growing media to be 50 per cent peat-free by 2005 and 90 per cent peat-free by 2010, however both targets were missed,” he said. This was followed up by the 2011 White Paper ‘The Natural Choice: securing the value of nature’ which stated that the government will commit to reducing peat use to zero by 2030 and critically end its use by consumers in 2020. So needless to say the debate – or the challenge – continues.”
The White Paper Harper refers to had a profound effect, resulting in the setup of the Responsible Sourcing Scheme for Growing Media that enables Defra, NGOs, retailers, growers and manufacturers to make the best-informed decisions about different constituent formulations, maximising the environmental and social benefits, as well as considering cost. “I am personally delighted to be leading this at Bord Na Móna,” Harper continued, “as we strive to ensure growing media is made from materials that are sourced and manufactured in a way that is both socially and environmentally responsible; supporting the government is of great importance to us.”
The manufacturers are typically members of the Growing Media Association (GMA) which is concerned with the development, production, marketing and sale of growing media and soil improvers in the UK and Ireland and the ingredients used.
Phenomenal progress has been achieved across the sector since its inception in order to support the UK government’s targets. Members of the GMA cover the whole spectrum of growing media suppliers, from businesses that started out as peat producers to those that run entirely peat-free operations. Steve feels confident that all members that began life as peat producers have worked hard to reduce the peat content in their products and develop alternatives.
Peat has always been the cheapest raw material available on the market, with all other diluents between two to six times more expensive, so has been the go-to product, especially for many who are price conscious. This is one of the reasons why Bord Na Móna has now launched a new peat-free brand, Happy Compost, using a wide range of ingredients to reduce peat – for example coir, green compost, composted bark fines and a recycled wood fibre – that works as well as the peat-based products they are replacing.