William Sinclair labelling 'could mislead' greens claim

Green campaigners have hit out at compost producer William Sinclair's use of a carbon label on its peat-based products that they say under-estimates life-cycle CO2 emissions by a factor of five.

Green campaigners concerned over William Sinclair carbon labelling - photo: William Sinclair
Green campaigners concerned over William Sinclair carbon labelling - photo: William Sinclair

This season, Sinclair stamped its J Arthur Bower’s multi-purpose compost, containing 75-80 per cent peat, with claims about its life-cycle carbon dioxide emissions that experts have said "miss the point".
The label shows a footprint design next to the phrase "carbon footprint", together with the figure 25g/l CO2 and the words "committed to carbon reduction".

According to Sinclair, the logo "tells customers how much they are doing to help the environment" and will help "customers looking for the greener choice".

But the figure of 25g/l CO2 excludes the carbon in the peat itself, absorbed from the atmosphere over thousands of years and locked away in bogs, say experts. This is slowly emitted as the product decays in use. This carbon emission is roughly four times as large as the calculated footprint, which covers only the extraction, production and transport of the product to the retail outlet, according to expert evidence given recently to MPs.

"Sinclair’s label is missing the point," RSPB policy officer Olly Watts told Haymarket title the ENDS Report. "I hope it doesn’t mislead gardeners into thinking they are buying environmentally friendly products when in fact the company is digging up peat - a safe carbon store - and contributing unnecessarily to both climate change and habitat destruction."

Sinclair’s label has also been criticised by Wyevale green advisor Dr Alan Knight, who launches Wyevale’s Plan Apple sustainability development report today (8 September).

Sinclair said in a statement that it recognised the in-use emissions of peat, omitted from its label, were high but it had decided to use the "industry norm" of measuring the product’s carbon footprint up to the point of purchase. "That at least provides a starting point of consistent measurement that can be measured to ensure progress in the future.

"Environmental issues surrounding growing media are not solely to do with peat usage. There are other issues that can, and should, be addressed, such as transport, packaging, energy use etc. These other issues could easily be overlooked if in-use emissions were included which resulted in yet again concentrating solely on peat usage."


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