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Growing medium is a material in which plants are grown
Gerald Schmilewski
Coordinator of the Growing Media Sector Group

Harmonisation of National Growing Media Legislation

The growing media industry is committed to working on the removal of existing trade barriers that are impeding the full development of growing media intra-EU trade flows. In this regard, we highly welcome the European Commission’s work towards a common legislation framework across the European Union through the revision of the Fertiliser Regulation.

 

European Parliament and Member States need to weed out legal uncertainties from European Commission Fertilising Products Proposal

In March 2016, the European Commission published its Proposal for a Regulation on CE marked fertilising products, which contains new rules for the harmonisation of growing media and soil improvers.

EPAGMA, the European Peat and Growing Media Association, has been looking forward to a proposal that would remove unnecessary trade barriers that are making it difficult for growing media and soil improvers to be freely traded in the EU. In this regard, we highly welcome and support the European Commission’s work towards a common legislative framework across the European Union. A successful harmonisation proposal that will ensure wider availability of growing media products to the European agriculture and horticulture sectors, will require adequate rules with clear definitions that will encourage the placing on the market of CE marked growing media and soil improvers.

The current Commission proposal is an important first step, but more work is necessary to shape a clear and workable framework for the growing media industry. EPAGMA is concerned by parts of the text that seem to suggest that some common growing media materials such as certain coconut materials (coir pith) which have undergone so-called buffering processes would be treated as chemical substances under REACH. In EPAGMA’s view a plant based product such as coir pith is not within the scope of REACH registration.

EPAGMA Chairman Norbert Siebels commented: “Setting a framework for EU harmonisation without adequate definitions and rules that are not taking into account the unique nature of growing media and soil improvers will result in legal uncertainty and the continued placing on the market of these products via diverging national rules - ultimately failing to achieve the objective of improving intra-EU trade flows. EPAGMA will carefully study the proposal and will engage in a solution-oriented dialogue with the European Parliament, Member States and all stakeholders involved.”

“Our industry is firmly committed to contribute to the EU harmonisation of rules on growing media and soil improvers as well as to providing a wide range of products to the agricultural and horticultural supply chains”, EPAGMA Chairman Norbert Siebels confirmed.

 

Responsibly Produced Peat

EPAGMA members decided to support the establishment of a certification system for responsibly produced peat (RPP) for growing media applications.

The initiative was encouraged by the Dutch Government and resulted from fruitful discussion and cooperation between EPAGMA, the International Peat Society (IPS) and the Dutch Growing Media Producers Organisation (VPN). The criteria and certification system are being developed in close cooperation with Wetlands International and other stakeholders. It is EPAGMA’s objective to achieve that the certification of responsibly produced peat will become the industry’s standard approach to peatlands extraction in the future.

The system will lay down requirements from site-selection till after-use, which are established in consultation with various stakeholders and organisations (GM producers, environmental NGOs, growing media users and scientists). The certification will be undertaken by independent certification institutes.

In its sustainability agenda, EPAGMA committed to continuing its support for the establishment of a certification scheme for responsibly produced peat for growing media with the aim of certifying the first peat production sites by the latest in 2015. EPAGMA will also set targets for increasing the number of peat production sites certified in the beginning of 2016.

The Growing Media Sector Group coordinates EPAGMA’s contributions to RPP, representing the association in the RPP Board.

Read more about RPP here.

 

Life Cycle Assessment of Growing Media Constituents

In 2012, EPAGMA presented a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) on growing media constituents conducted by the independent research company, Quantis. Quantis is a leading life cycle assessment (LCA) consulting firm specialised in supporting companies to measure, understand and manage the environmental impacts of their products, services and operations.

The purpose of this study is to provide a better understanding of the environmental impacts of growing media. The results of the study help EPAGMA to identify further actions for a more sustainable development of our business. In this regard, the Quantis study marks only the beginning of a far-reaching process for increasingly integrating life-cycle thinking to all business decisions. EPAGMA members are committed to regularly assessing the improvement of the industry and communicating best practices throughout the supply chain.

Further information on the LCA study can be found here.

 

Growing Media Fora

Since 2008, EPAGMA has been organising its Growing Media Forum dedicated to EU policies relevant to the growing media sector.

Representatives of the growing media industry, national horticulture associations, and EU officials meet in Brussels on an almost annual basis in order to discuss the role of growing media and policies such as harmonisation, organic farming and ecolabels. At the 6th Growing Media forum in 2013, the association published its first “Sustainability Agenda Roadmap” establishing a framework for EPAGMA’s actions on sustainability.

EPAGMA’s Vice-Chairman, Tomi Yli-Kyyny informed attendees that “Although we can see efforts made over the last years, we believe that this framework can only be the start of more work to be undertaken by the industry. For us, the EPAGMA Sustainability Agenda is not complete, but a living document that we hope to develop over the coming years.” EPAGMA invited interested stakeholders to provide comments and feedback on the document to the EPAGMA Secretariat.

 

Eco-label for Growing Media and Soil Improvers

EPAGMA welcomes the open discussions on the revision of the EU Eco-label criteria for soil improvers and growing media. EPAGMA members are representing the industry in the Commission led working groups and provide technical expertise on growing media. EPAGMA supports the inclusion of peat in eco-labelled products based on the following elements:

  • Peat is an essential constituent for growing media because suitable alternatives for all applications are not available;
  • Peat is a constituent with an environmental impact, like all other growing media constituents;
  • EPAGMA believes that peat can be sourced responsibly and makes every effort to align the industry in this regard;
  • The current criteria result in almost a complete ban of qualitative organic GM products bearing the eco-label.

 

Organic Farming

EPAGMA welcomes the Commission proposal on a review of the organic farming legislation. However, the use of organic growing media under EU organic farming rules has been treated differently across Member States. This disruption of the internal market has not been addressed in the review. EPAGMA believes that the use of organic growing media should be clearly stated as allowed for organic production of all fruits and vegetables. It represents the best available technique, providing environmental, societal and economic benefits and contributing to fulfilling consumer demand.

Please click the download button below to read the EPAGMA position on organic farming.

 

Study on the “Socio-economic impact of the peat and growing media industry on horticulture in the EU

In 2008, EPAGMA commissioned a socio-economic study on the use of peat and growing media. The study concluded that the peat and growing media industry is an important contributor to the sustainability of modern horticulture. It represents an industry with a €1.3 billion turnover accounting for 11,000 jobs across Europe and is essential to the horticulture industry which is estimated to have a turnover of approx. €60 billion and provides for over 750,000 jobs.

The study can be downloaded below.