Alternatives to Peat

"Alternative materials can be substituted for peat in virtually all its applications although opinions differ as to their effectiveness and comparative performance." (Oakes, 1997) Possible alternatives to the use of peat in horticultural applications:

coir (coconut fibre)
composted pine bark fines
composted sawdust
composted rice husks
cocoa bean residues

wood chips
recycled organic wastes

Diatomite, vermiculite, perlite and some zeolites are amongst the mineral substitutes for peat, as are derived substances like rock wool.

According to Emerald Peat P/L:

Alternatives such as coir are considerably less expensive than peat. The 1982 Commission of Inquiry into Peat Mining at Killarney Swamp concluded that peat remained an important component in some horticultural mixes and that developing a new peat mine was in the public interest (Exhibit 56). There are horticultural uses where peat is not required or where alternatives such as coir meet certain customers' requirements. There are other customers who clearly do either require it or wish to use it (Exhibit 11: Royal Botanic Gardens; Exhibit 68: Olympic Co-ordination Authority). Others have a commercial interest in promoting non-peat products (Exhibit 22: Nichols/Debco).

It is a matter of market choice. The fact that peat is considerably more expensive than coir indicates that those customers who prefer peat are prepared to pay a premium to use it, and there are no market distortions operating in favour of peat use. Thus pricing acts as a disincentive to the use of peat compared to coir. This demonstrates a real community need for peat, a need which should be capable of being satisfied.

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According to the Department of Mineral Resources:

Given that peat continues to be imported into Australia in significant quantities, and that production from the Wingecarribee Swamp mine has increased steadily over recent years, it is clear that these peat alternatives or substitutes have not been universally accepted by the market, and are evidently considered by at least some consumers to perform less effectively. The substitutes are invariably significantly cheaper than peat, yet demand for peat (both the local product and imported material) remains strong. The conclusion seems self-evident: the market prefers peat to the so-called substitutes.

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Minter Ellison, Summary of Submissions by Emerald Peat Pty Ltd, 1997.

Geoffrey Michael Oakes, Senior Geologist, Land Use and Resource Assessment Section, Geological Survey Division, NSW Department of Mineral Resources, The Wingecarribee Swamp Peat Deposit: A Submission to the Chief Mining Warden's Inquiry into Renewal of Special Lease 567 and 568 (Act 1906) to Mine Peat, 1967.



This site has been designed, researched and produced by Sharon Beder

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