Market participants join forces to reduce peat use

Wettbewerbsbeitrag "Schaufel im Boden" von Lubomira Veselovska aus Brugg aufgenommen am Sonntag (20.09.15) in Windisch

Peat extraction causes environmental damage that affects the climate and biodiversity. In Switzerland, moors have been protected since 1987, and peat may no longer be extracted. Nevertheless, it is estimated that Switzerland imports over 500,000 m3 of peat every year. In the interest of also reducing the environmental damage caused abroad, the Federal Council adopted the peat exit plan in 2012. The first phase of the exit plan stipulates industry to actively take voluntary measures.

Cooperation between business, science and civil society

The most important success factors for a continuous reduction in peat use in Switzerland are a solid knowledge base of the systemic ramifications in the peat supply chain, cooperation between relevant market participants, and the availability of peat substitutes.

The FOEN is working with committed stakeholders to implement a gradual and continuous reduction in peat use. Through a data collection process, it was able to determine the various sectors and volumes involved in peat use. The FOEN promotes the availability of practical peat substitutes by providing financial support to research projects in this area.

Memorandums of understanding

Memorandum of understanding regarding vegetables and culinary herbs

In June 2022 the memorandum of understanding on the reduction of peat use in the production of and trade in vegetables and culinary herbs as well as their seedlings was signed. Signatories include the Association of Swiss Vegetable Producers (VSGP),
Bio Suisse and IG Hemp on behalf of their members, as well as Swiss and foreign producers of growing substrates, seedlings and culinary herbs, and also representatives of the trade. Producers of seedlings still need a relatively large amount of peat due to their
use of soil press pots. One of the goals is to reduce the amount of peat in growing substrates for vegetable and culinary herb
seedlings to a maximum of 40% peat by 2028.

As a producer or supplier, would you like to help reduce the use of peat? Are you interested in also signing the memorandum of understanding? Then please contact us directly (see contact box, top right).

Memorandum of understanding in horticulture and landscaping

In December 2021, the trade association JardinSuisse, the Swiss Association for Greening Buildings (SFG), the Association of Swiss Urban Gardeners and Horticultural Offices (VSSG) and substrate manufacturers signed a memorandum of understanding to gradually reduce the use of peat to a maximum of 5% by 2030. This reduction is easily attainable for growing substrates. In the area of plant production, however, finding a complete substitution for the chemical and physical properties of peat is more challenging. Nonetheless, there are now many nurseries that already work with less than 5% peat. It is now important to inform and raise awareness among customers.

As a producer or supplier, would you like to help reduce the use of peat? Are you interested in also signing the memorandum of understanding? Then please contact us directly (see contact box, top right).

Memorandum of understanding in production horticulture and garden sales

Since the summer of  2019, the associations JardinSuisse,, IG Hemp and the Association of Swiss Urban Gardeners and Horticultural Offices VSSG, on behalf of their members, as well as representatives of retailers, substrate producers and the Swiss Confederation have signed a memorandum of understanding to reduce the use of peat in production horticulture and garden sales (retail and garden wholesale trade). This cooperation is focused particularly on a coordinated reduction in the production of peat-based substrates for plant production and a reduction in the supply and use of plants using peat, both in production horticulture and by retailers and garden centres. 

Memorandum of understanding in the hobby gardening sector

In the summer of 2017, representatives of the retail trade, soil producers, the JardinSuisse trade association and the Swiss Confederation signed a memorandum of understanding to reduce the use of peat in the production, supply and consumption of packaged soils for end users in Switzerland.

The cooperation between the industry players and the Swiss Confederation has worked very well with regard to peat in packaged soil. The percentage of peat in packaged soils sold by the signatories to the memorandum of understanding fell to just below 4% in 2020 (see chart in the fact sheet). The market share of the packaged soils of the participating companies was around 90% in the target year 2020.

The percentage of peat in the packaged soils of the participating companies has already halved between 2016 and 2018 and has halved again between 2018 to 2020 to around 4% peat. Despite the strong increase in the amount of processed substrates, the absolute amount of peat used in 2020 has decreased by almost 23 000 m3 compared to 2015. This corresponds to an annual peat layer of 1 m height on 3.2 football pitches.

Data collection concerning peat imports and peat use in Switzerland

Based on the data collected from retailers (including home improvement stores, garden centres, furniture stores, etc.) in 2014, private gardening is the most relevant application area for peat reduction in Switzerland due to the annual volume of peat used here. In fact, around 171,000 m3 (32%) of imported peat is used for gardening. It is also used heavily in the professional production of vegetables (147,000m3; 28%) and ornamental plants (87,000 m3; 17%).


To implement the Federal Council’s peat exit plan, the FOEN supports the green industry with various research projects.

Review and adaptation of “Flyer 113” guidelines

The nutrient and substrate analysis is an essential tool for advising gardeners and for monitoring quality in substrate manufacture. Peat-free substrates are generally a good medium for microorganisms. In peat-free substrates, the interactions between the substrate composition and microorganisms are much more important for the provision of nutrients than for substrates containing peat. This must be taken into account for the assessment of substrates and for fertilising. In this project, JardinSuisse, Agroscope and RICOTER Erdaufbereitung AG teamed up to define new guidelines for the parameters pH, salt content and various nutrients in water and NH4 extracts for low-peat and peat-free substrates.

Tests introducing practical low-peat and peat-free substrates in the area of production horticulture

To promote implementation in ornamental plant cultivation at local level, a three-year pilot project was undertaken to support the introduction of low-peat (≤ 40% peat) and peat-free substrates for cultivation of ornamental plants in ten conventional and organic horticultural enterprises, with specialist monitoring by JardinSuisse and the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL).

Tests on the practical introduction of peat-reduced and peat-free substrates in the area of vegetables and culinary herbs 

Together with partners and with the support of the Federal Office for Agriculture, Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) has examined ways of reducing peat in pressed pots in vegetable and potted herb cultivation. The project report summarises the results of the cultivation tests using new low-peat organic propagation substrates for vegetable production. Tests were carried out using pressed pots (various vegetables) and potted herbs. Pressed pots can also be made with just 40% peat, and potted herbs can be produced without any peat.

Life cycle assessment studies: comparison of peat and peat substitute products

The life cycle assessment research group at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) compared the life cycle assessments of 10 substrate components (including peat) and 7 substrate mixtures. This study assessed the environmental impacts, social aspects, the plant cultivation characteristics and future availability of the substrate components.

To assess other peat substitute components of practical interest, in 2019 the Institute of Environmental Systems and Natural Resources at the ZHAW (Zurich University of Applied Sciences) extended the 2015 study 'Peat and Peat Substitutes Compared' to include nine other components. 

Public procurement

Declaration of commitment to sustainable management
of green spaces

The public sector plays an exemplary role in the procurement and provision of services related to green spaces and greening. The Federal Office for Buildings and Logistics (FOBL), the Federal Office for Defence Procurement (armasuisse), the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO), the Agroscope research institute, the ETH Domain and the Coordination Conference for Public Sector Construction and Property Services (KBOB) are leading the way and are undertaking to plant, design and maintain their green spaces in a near-natural way. In particular, they refrain from using peat-based soil substrates and plants with peat. This is also the case in the greening of roofs, façades and indoor spaces, regardless of whether the work is carried out by the public-sector entities themselves or contracted out to external providers. The public sector thus creates a significant demand for peat-free products.

Other public sector organisations and associations are invited to join the declaration in the sense of a memorandum of understanding. The Association of Swiss Urban Gardeners and Horticultural Offices (VSSG) has signed for and on behalf of all its members.

Are you interested in also signing the declaration voluntarily? Then please contact us directly (see contact box, top right).

Factsheets on near-natural green space design

PUSCH has created three factsheets with recommendations for the planning, creation and maintenance of green spaces, building greenery and changing plant displays (flower borders). The factsheets for public procurement are available in the Toolbox of the 'Wissensplattform nachhaltige öffentliche Beschaffung WÖB'. One of the most important recommendations is to ensure peat-free substrate when buying soil plants and seedlings.

The Federal Council's peat exit plan

On 6 December 1987, around 58% of Swiss voters voted in favour of the 'Rothenturm' popular initiative. Since then, moors and wetlands of special beauty and national importance have been protected.

According to the Swiss Federal Constitution (Art. 78, para. 5), no buildings may be built on them and no changes may be made to the land, which is tantamount to a ban on peat extraction in Switzerland. But peat imports are creating a conflict with applicable law in Switzerland, and the negative environmental impacts are caused abroad. In addition, the habitats of many specific and often threatened plant and animal species are destroyed by peat extraction.

A postulate mandated the Federal Council in 2010 to study measures to reduce peat imports and the use of peat in Switzerland or even to ban them. In the peat phase-out concept that was adopted in 2012, the Federal Council establishes a two-phase approach to implementing a complete peat phase-out. It gives priority to the implementation of voluntary measures for the reduction of peat use.

Further information

Last modification 28.03.2023

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Any questions may be addressed to

Laura Tschümperlin
Federal Office for the Environment FOEN
Economics and Innovation Division
Consumption and Products Section
CH-3003 Bern
Tel. +41 58 48 50 765

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