The use of peat moss in horticulture has contributed to a 70% loss of European peatland areas over the past 25 years. Peat moss is the most common material used to grow potted plants and trees. Despite recent EU directives to protect wetlands, increased demand from the horticultural sector is destroying these natural habitats. More sustainable substitutes such as tree bark, wood fibre, composted sludge and green waste have been tested, but producers consider them to be less effective. Recent changes in EU legislation regarding the management of sediment from seas and rivers could offer a new alternative. EU legislation allows for sediment dredged from ports to be reused commercially, provided that it poses no risk to human health or the environment.
LIFE SUBSED seeks to show that dredged sediments can be converted into an economically viable and environmentally sustainable alternative to peat moss for use in horticulture. The project will use its innovative growing medium in plant nurseries to cultivate food crops, such as olive, citrus, basil and blueberry, and ornamental plants including laurel. The project will favour efficient and cost-effective techniques to increase profits and gain support from professionals and policymakers. It will also provide public administrations with safety guidelines and practical advice for future sediment and agriculture management strategies. Stakeholders on all levels will help safeguard the social benefits and environmental credentials of processes used to produce sediment-based growing media. Technical training sessions and communication tools will also help transfer and replicate project results throughout Europe.
By making better use of natural resources,the project will be in line with the requirements of the EU Waste Framework Directive and the circular economy package. It will also reduce the impact of the horticultural sector EU peatlands protected under the Habitats Directive and the EU biodiversity strategy. The aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions from the plant growth medium is in line with the 2020 climate and energy package.