LIFE Project Cover Photo

Sustainable substrates for agriculture from dredged remediated marine sediments: from ports to pots

Reference: LIFE17 ENV/IT/000347 | Acronym: LIFE SUBSED



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.

Expected results:

  • Assess the suitability of dredged sediment to grow food and non-food crops in plant nurseries;
  • Document the quality of both non-food crops and food crops produced using sediment-based growing media;
  • Investigate the market value of treated sediment;
  • Chart out administrative and legal hurdles in bringing treated sediment to the market;
  • Substitute 10-20% of peat growth media with treated sediments;
  • Reduce CO2 emissions of plant growth medium by 80-90% compared with the substituted peat.


    Reference: LIFE17 ENV/IT/000347
    Acronym: LIFE SUBSED
    Start Date: 01/10/2018
    End Date: 30/09/2022
    Total Budget: 1,745,524 €
    EU Contribution: 1,046,731 €
    Project Location:


    Coordinating Beneficiary: Flora Toscana Soc. Agr. Coop.
    Legal Status: PCO
    Address: Via Montecarlo, 81, 51017, Pescia (PT), Italia
    Contact Person: Maria CASTELLANI
    Tel: 393355683226

    LIFE Project Map



    • Waste recycling
    • Waste reduction - Raw material saving


    • agricultural method
    • environmental training
    • food production
    • soil erosion
    • horticulture
    • resource conservation


    • Directive 75/442/EEC -"Waste framework directive" (15.07.1975)
    • COM(2015)614 - "Closing the loop - An EU action plan for the Circular Economy" (02.12.2015)
    • COM(2001)162 -"Biodiversity Action Plan for the conservation of natural resources (vol. I & II)" (27.03.2001)


    Name Type
    Flora Toscana Soc. Agr. Coop. Coordinator
    Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche - Istituto di Ricerca sugli Ecosistemi Terrestri Italy Participant
    Caliplant Agro S.L Spain Participant
    Miguel Hernández University of Elche, Spain Participant
    CARBONSINK GROUP S.R.L., Italy Participant
    Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l’analisi dell’economia agraria Italy Participant