Peat Substitutes

Peat substitutes are organic or mineral materials that can be used as an alternative for peat in growing media production.  

Green compost 

Green compost 
Green compost consists mainly of private and commercial green waste, for example, from gardens or parks.

Due to its high weight and the related transport costs, green compost is often sourced locally and therefore largely meets common environmental and social standards in Europe. The greenhouse gas emissions of green compost can be attributed primarily to the composting process and the comparatively high transport emissions due to the high transport weight.  

Wood-based peat substitutes 

Wood fibers
Wood-based peat substitutes such as wood fibres or bark humus are produced from by-products of the wood industry such as wood chips and bark, which are created during the manufacture of sawn timber in sawmills.

The raw wood for the wood-based peat substitutes produced in Europe currently comes largely from European coniferous forests. Due to the existing legal requirements and large shares of FSC- or PEFC-certified forests and sawmills, sustainable forest management can be largely assumed in Central Europe. However, possible timber imports from countries with higher sustainability risks cannot be ruled out, especially in the future. Risks such as biodiversity loss due to more intensive economic use of forests, lack of occupational safety or disregard for land use rights are considered under HORTICERT.

Coconut-based peat substitutes

Coconut husks
Coconut-based peat substitutes are by-products from the coconut industry and are obtained from the husk of the coconut.

Short coconut fibers and coconut pith for the growing media industry are by-products from coconut fiber production for mattresses, ropes or insulation material for the automotive industry. Alternatively, the whole husk can be processed into coir fiber, coir pith, and coir chips for the growing media industry. Coconut-based peat substitutes for European horticulture come mainly from India and Sri Lanka. To guarantee the sustainability of these products, HORTICERT considers ecological and social sustainability criteria along the entire supply chain.

Learn more about the sustainability of coconut-based peat substitutes in our Factsheet:

Other organic peat substitutes 

Peat moss (Sphagnum)
Other organic peat substitutes are currently only used in small quantities but could gain relevance in the future.

For example, research is being conducted on the cultivation of sphagnum (peat moss), which has promising horticultural properties similar to peat. Other possible organic feedstocks include rice husks, hemp fibres and miscanthus. The potential of further organic peat substitutes is investigated in numerous research and development projects under the supervision of the Fachagentur Nachwachsende Rohstoffe e.V. (Agency for Renewable Resources).

Mineral peat substitutes 

Mineral peat substitutes such as expanded perlite, (expanded) clay or pumice are currently used in relatively small quantities.

However, they still have the potential to constitute a relevant volume share in growing media and to partially replace peat.

The German growing media market 2023*

The German growing media market shows exemplary that the amount of peat demanded in hobby and professional growing media has decreased by more than 10 % since 2013. Most growing media on the market currently contain about 51% peat. In Germany, green compost is the most important peat substitute, with a share of 24 % (1.5 million m3), followed by wood fibres with 14 % (0.9 million m3). Mineral materials and coconut-based products have so far only been of secondary relevance.  

As peat reduction progresses, the demand for peat substitutes is expected to increase significantly in the coming years in order to be able to continue producing the required growing media volumes.