Quest for sustainable alternative to peat gets £320,000 boost

hands and soil

Innovative trial will use household food and green waste

Replacing the estimated 1.7 million cubic meters* of peat used in horticulture with sustainable alternatives is a huge challenge, but one which has been boosted by £320,000 of grant funding secured from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Environmental start-up Sizzle says they have brought together organisations including waste management companies, garden retailers, trade bodies, NGOs and academics to explore new sustainable alternatives to peat and how to make it easier for people to select a greener choice.

The funding will support an initial 18-month trial that will look to enhance the quality and consistency of composted materials derived from waste streams, in a specific area. The resultant materials will then potentially have a wider range of uses helping to reduce the amount of raw materials needed by the industry. “We aim to explore the use of derivatives from green, agricultural and food waste streams and work closely with the local authority and waste processor to deliver key messages and increase the quality of feedstocks and resultant compost,” said the firm.

The project will also aim to demonstrate to gardeners how best to use peat alternatives as a growing medium and highlight how composting and the use of wormeries can create mulch and soil enhancers.

A location for this trial is currently being sought and if successful, the results will be openly shared, enabling it to be rolled out on a national level.

The UK and Welsh Government are currently leading the way in banning retail peat-based growing media sales in horticulture. Scottish Government is currently consulting on this issue.

This latest step will support climate and biodiversity goals and the transition to net zero. It seeks to help gardeners transition successfully to peat free and provide evidence to inform legislation change to increase the replacement of peat with more sustainable peat alternatives.

The growing media industry has been moving to peat free but also needs support to find alternatives at scale that are of high quality, consistent and readily available. This trial will help address changes that are required across the whole system, said Sizzle, including the legislative framework, business practices and citizen behaviour. Areas of focus include reducing contamination from waste streams to enhance the quality of materials that could be part of the peat replacement process and identifying potential legislative blockers which might unexpectedly hinder the use of waste derivatives as part of the transition from peat.

Trewin Restorick, founder of Sizzle said: “We must hasten the transition from the use of peat in horticulture to more sustainable alternatives, however to achieve this we need systemic change, from producers through to customers. We’re particularly keen to explore whether a sufficiently high volume of well-composted waste derived material could be used at the scale and quality required by the industry.

“I’m optimistic that with new levels of collaboration between organisations who haven’t previously connected, plus this fantastic funding boost from Esmée Fairburn Foundation to run a localised trial, we can show what’s possible and provide some innovative solutions at scale.

“We are now looking for a location to run this trial and are very keen to hear from local authorities and waste management companies within the UK that have ambitious targets for cutting carbon emissions and have a desire to reduce waste contamination and build more circular solutions.”

Organisations interested in supporting the trial or being involved in the wider development of activities, can contact or visit

*The Garden Centre Association estimates that they face an annual one million cubic metre shortfall of missing material. This rises to 1.7 million if commercial grower requirements are included.