For peat's sake...B&Q transforms the way we buy bedding plants

For peat's sake...B&Q transforms the way we buy bedding plants

Let's hear it for Britain's biggest plant seller. B&Q is doing away with peat and non-recyclable polystyrene packaging in favour of what it's calling Teabag Technology and recyclable plastic trays

By Abby Trow
Saying goodbye to peat and polystyrene, B&Q is revolutionising plant selling

It's always been green, but B&Q is making its bedding plants division super eco-friendly by removing peat from its commercial production. Instead it's starting to sell plants in individual biodegradable corn starch 'teabags' filled with coir - the fibre from coconut husks. And you won't buy them in polystyrene but in recycled and recyclable plastic (PET) trays. Pictured above: marigold bedding plants are ready simply to pop into the soil..makes doing window boxes far less messy

How often have you come back with those horrible polystyrene packs of bedding plants and thought how odd it is that a natural product is sold in something so incredibly un-eco? Well B&Q has long been aware of the problem and has been working hard over recent years to change the way bedding plants are sold.

And it's ready to unveil its solution: we'll be buying packs of bedding plants in green trays made in Holland from recycled plastic and which are fully recyclable - just put them in your council recycling bin.

B&Q says this decision is saving 22,500 m3 of polystyrene, or 87,200 wheelie bins full of the stuff, from ending up in UK landfill sites. 


Teabag technology from B&Q's bedding plants division
You'll now be able to by bedding plants in recycled plastic (PET) trays, not non recyclable polystyrene ones

Phasing out peat

Peat, in case you don't know, is a type of soil made up of waterlogged partially-decomposed plant material including sphagnum moss and other acid-loving plants, which has built up over some 10,000 years in poorly-drained wetland habitats. It's an ideal growing medium for plants..however, its extraction on an industrial scale has caused huge damage to environments where it occurs, such as central Ireland's peat bogs. And there's now strong pressure on everyone involved in horticulture to find alternatives.
So it's equally important that B&Q is moving away from selling seedlings rooted in peat pellets, in favour of growing them in individual 'teabags' made from corn starch and filled with 'easyGrow™' coir from coconuts.
Teabag technology, as it's being called, has been developed by a company in Sri Lanka working with B&Q. The teabag itself is made from bio-degradable cornstarch, and it's filled with strands of coir, also biodegradable and produced in Sri Lanka. The bags are shipped in huge quantities to the UK and the tender plants grown here are put into them. 
Peatbogs should look like this. B&Q aims to cease using peat altogether by 2030
But the horticultural industries' demand for peat leaves peatlands ruined
Ben Smith, buyer for bedding plants, says these bags - the development of which has created 750 jobs in Sri Lanka -  are between 94-99 per cent peat free, which is a huge shift and a welcome one given the scale of B&Q's plant production.
Save water
And of the teabags' many advantages, he says the coir filling protects roots and retains water far better than peat. This means garden centres won't have to use anywhere near as much water as they have done to keep their bedding plants in good condition - which will be a huge help in times of drought.
'This new packaging really is completely different, and it sees an 80 per cent reduction in our carbon footprint,' he says. 
Matt Sexton, Corportate Social Responsibility director, is proud of these developments: 'As the largest garden retailer in the country, selling around 140 million bedding plants a year, we're keen to ensure our horticulture products have the lowest possible level of environmental impact.  
'easyGrow™ with Teabag Technology™ has allowed us to move from a non-recyclable packaging form to a recyclable one, to make a substantial move away from the use of peat and to reduce our transport footprint associated with moving our plants around the country.'
So don't put it off any can get your window boxes done without any more polystyrene-induced eco angst.
Teabag technology is being rolled out across B&Q's 362 stores from April 1, starting with 20 varieties of bedding plants.
B&Q aims to remove peat from all of its horticultural products by 2030, and is on track to do so substantially before then, it says.