Cocopeat (coir) is a renewable resource unlike peat moss, which has taken centuries to evolve. The extensive use of traditional peat moss in horticulture has resulted in the depletion of natural bogs (swamps), an essential part of our wildlife heritage. Peat moss extraction harms the unique and fragile wetlands ecosystem as there are many highly adapted plant and animal species that are found only in peat bogs. The destruction of the world’s wetlands is progressing at an alarming rate. In the UK alone 75% of blanket bogs and 94% of raised bogs have been destroyed over the past century. UK gardeners and horticulture use a staggering 2.55 million cubic meters of peat moss each year. We can all play our part in assuring the conservation of peat bogs by using alternative substrates to peat moss, such as coir.
Our wetlands cover only 3% of the Earth’s land surface, but may store 16-24% of all soil-borne carbon (peat bogs absorb carbon dioxide and store it as carbon). When peat bogs are drained for peat extraction, the bog has less capacity to absorb carbon. Bogs where peat has been extracted support the growth of enzymes that directly release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. The extraction of peat itself also releases into the atmosphere carbon dioxide which has been building up in the bogs for thousands of years, this in turn impacts upon global warming. Wetlands are therefore crucial for the health of the planet and the argument for their preservation is very powerful.
Coconut husks (which are used to make coir) are a waste product from the coconut industry. Coir mills buy this waste product from multiple traders, then shred the husks to sell on for several different uses, including coir doormats, animal bedding and growing media.
Throughout 2012 we worked closely with New Leaf Practice (www.newleafpractice.co.uk) to help us develop a clear supply chain. Once this project is completed, we will be able to trace our coir right back to its source at the coconut plantations. Having this information clearly mapped out, will aid us in ensuring that every step of the supply chain is working in a sustainable and ethical manner.
The sustainability of our coir products is a question that comes up more and more as people are moving away from the unrenewable resource of peat and into coir. In Sri Lanka at the moment, only about 40% of the coconut husks that are harvested every year are used to make products like coir, the other 60% goes to waste, so there is still a lot of capacity available to us as an industry. At Botanicoir, we are very much involved with the Sri Lankan authorities in the research which studies how to increase the productivity of the coconut plantations through new varieties and hybrid plants.
We must also not forget that while Sri Lanka is the main exporter of coir products, it is a very small country compared to India and Indonesia, for example, which have billions of coconuts available that are, at the moment, being wasted.
There are ongoing debates about the environmental impact of using peat as a growing media. The government is proposing a complete peat phase out by 2020, so there is currently a lot of interest in alternative growing methods.
Coir is a renewable resource unlike peat moss, which has taken centuries to evolve. The extensive use of traditional peat moss in horticulture has resulted in the depletion of natural bogs (swamps), an essential part of our wildlife heritage. Peat moss extraction harms the unique and fragile wetlands ecosystem. There are many highly adapted plant and animal species that are found only in peat bogs. The destruction of the world’s wetlands is progressing at an alarming rate. In the UK alone 75% of blanket bogs and 94% of raised bogs have been destroyed over the past century. UK gardeners and horticulture use a staggering 2.55 million cubic meters of peat moss each year. We can all play our part in assuring the conservation of peat bogs by using alternative substrates to peat moss such as coir.
Not only is coir renewable and sustainable, it is also an excellent growing media. It has superb water holding capacity and drainage, this promotes irrigation efficiency and saves water resources. High air fill porosity promotes rapid, healthier and more dense natural rooting and high lignin content increases resistance to bacteria and disease. Coir is biodegradable, so poses no detrimental disposal problems to the environment and being compressible means that it can be transported easily, reducing its carbon footprint.
As a producer of an organic, environmentally friendly, sustainable growing media, we take particular care to ensure that the way we operate is ethically responsible. When sourcing raw materials we only select coir mills that operate to high standards with regards to their employees and procedures.
We strive to maintain the best working conditions in our own factory. We have a strict no child labour policy, set working hours and have implemented regular, ample rest periods into the shifts. Supervisors are constantly present to ensure that the health and safety measures are always met. We are particularly proud of the benefits available to all employees, including a wage that is above the industry average, a healthcare scheme, meals at work for all employees, and transport to and from the factory.
Our factory is based in rural Sri Lanka, where employment opportunities can be scarce. Botanicoir works with and for the local community in order to improve conditions and provide opportunities for local residents.
Long term initiatives that we are involved in include improving the local infrastructure, such as roads and telephone lines which provide a basis for the local economy to expand and develop. We provide jobs for local individuals, offering them a higher, fairer wage than other factories in the area, and other generous employee benefits.
As well as ongoing, long term improvements to the local area, one of our recent projects is sponsoring a local orphanage for children left without parents after the tsunami. This aids the orphanage in providing sufficient food and education materials for the orphans, which they struggle to do without help due to recent increases in food prices.
Another one of our recent projects has been helping the local school to build classrooms and our upcoming project will be to build toilets for the school.