Tesco has said it will be the first UK retailer to go peat-free on its British-grown bedding plants next week in a move that aims to lower its carbon footprint.

The supermarket chain revealed in March last year that it was reducing its use of the material by 95 per cent from April 2022, and it will stop all use of peat in the range from Monday (April 3).

It said it would have made the move to a 100 per cent peat-free range sooner, but a peat-free alternative was not available at the time.

What is peat and why is it harmful to the environment?

Peat is a layer of soil made primarily of partially decomposed plant material which has developed in waterlogged and low oxygen conditions.

Peat bogs are a carbon sink, meaning they soak up carbon dioxide emissions, helping in the fight against climate change.

The gardening material is still the most popular product used by the horticulture industry to grow potting plants but when harvested, vast quantities of carbon are released into the atmosphere, accelerating climate change.

It will also help preserve the UK’s and Republic of Ireland’s peatlands, which provide a wealth of environmental benefits as well as being home to many rare plants, insects and birds.

Worcester News: British-grown bedding plants at Tesco will be peat-free from MondayBritish-grown bedding plants at Tesco will be peat-free from Monday (Image: Canva)

Tesco is one of the UK’s largest sellers of bedding plants, with about 40 million sold each year.

Through this change, the supermarket said it had reduced its peat use by nearly 9,000 cubic metres a year.

Tesco said this has reduced the carbon footprint of these products by more than 1,200 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions a year – a reduction of 75 per cent.

Tesco started selling compost that is peat-free earlier this year

Tesco horticulture category buying manager, Alex Edwards, said: “Going peat-free on our British-grown bedding plants is right for our customers – we’ve listened to their feedback and have worked hard to prove we can deliver the same great quality, but now being better for our planet.

“Looking ahead, we hope this approach can be adopted on a wider-scale – it’s our aim to deliver this across a broader range of plants and flowers.”

Tesco said it made the “climate-focused decision” to remove peat from the compost it uses in its British-grown bedding plant range in April 2022.

It said that at the time a “viable alternative for peat wasn’t available for young plant propagation, which meant that a maximum of 5% peat remained in the compost formulation”, but this has now been addressed and it can go peat-free.

Defra minister Trudy Harrison said: “I am confident this move will encourage other retailers to follow their forward-thinking example, as we move towards the complete ban for selling peat to amateur gardeners which comes into force in 2024.”