VIDEO: Four Oaks Trade Show 22 sustainability panel

GIMA's Vicky Nuttall, GCA/Millbrook's Tammy Woodhouse, Southern Trident's Steve Harper and HTA's Dave Denny spoke on sustainability in horticulture at a Four Oaks seminar.

Chair Matthew Appleby, HortWeek editor, said peat is top of the list of policy concerns for readers and most want to retain peat, even after Defra's 2024 ban announced on 27 August. Growing media is up £2 a bag in two years.

Nuttall said suppliers "will have to be ready" but there is a "volume challenge". Education about using alternatives is important. 

Woodhouse said Millbrook has "almost gone peat-free this year" with no price promotions on peat. Peat gardeners are "happy" to buy peat-frees if on a three for two deal. But there is a volume challenge and at what cost will that come. "People will move but at what cost?"

Denny said manufacturers have innovated and educated but the challenge is of "speed and complexity".

Harper added: "The industry can achieve 2024" - it has "no choice". New and established entrants to the market have access to raw material but price of wood and coir has challenges - it is unlikely the same prices can be met. Consumers will find products they are used to buying cheaply will become more expensive.

On green messaging in garden centres, Appleby suggested NGOs have a louder voice than the industry on peat and other green issues.

Woodhouse questioned whether garden centres are succeeding in messaging. "There is no point on greenwashing£ and there's "no point claiming we are the green industry" though "we're getting towards it". Customers don't necessarily listen to NGOs so the industry need to educate rather than there being "knee jerk reactions". Denny said NGOs don't provide solutions while the industry provides trees, for instance. Nuttall said transparency on sustainability is important or else the consumer will become cynical on areas such as offsetting - they want more direct action. She said recycled, solar, ethically-sourced and natural products are common now. Haroer said the Responsible Sourcing Scheme educates the comsumer. He siad responsible was a better word than sustainable.

Appleby asked about plastics and whether the industry has moved on from virgin material. HortWeek research has found 88% of councils won't recycle plant pots.

Denny said taupe pots were a good solution as is Evergreen Garden Care's plastic compost bag recycling. Woodhouse said there is a long way to go on this and recycling plants won't accept them. The whole supply chain needs looking at.

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