B&Q is working on a peat-free alternative to its controversial Verve own-brand topsoil product, which contains 39 per cent peat and which launched this spring.
The announcement that the peat-free product will be in store this summer follows criticism from members of Defra's Sustainable Growing Media Task Force concerning the introduction of B&Q's Verve topsoil (HW, 23 March). The Verve product was sourced from Scotts.
The introduction of the Verve topsoil containing peat raised eyebrows because of the chain's position on the task force and as a signatory to the Growing Media Initiative.
The issue aired on BBC Radio 4's You and Yours last week after national newspapers picked it up. Speaking on the show, Chris Beardshaw said it was wrong that any topsoil contained peat. "For someone of B&Q's stature to be leading and sitting on various committees and be in a situation of using peat where it can most easily be substituted - there's no need for it to be used," he added.
A B&Q representative said: "Our topsoil does contain a percentage of peat and we are completely transparent about that on the packaging and encourage other retailers to be transparent too. We are working on a peat-free alternative with our suppliers and we hope to have that in store this summer.
"Our long-term ambition remains to replace peat in our offer through developing better peat-free formulations at the same price and increasing the percentage of peat alternatives in our overall volumes. This figure rose to 56.3 per cent in December."
Steve Harper, managing director, Vital Earth
"We use green waste in our topsoil and it works well. There's no price issue. I'm surprised that peat appeared in B&Q topsoil."
Chris Beardshaw, television gardener
"Peat is a highly unusual product to find in topsoil. There is no need for peat to be incorporated in what is sold as topsoil."