Waitrose has ditched peat in compost, despite sales almost doubling during the pandemic.

It has pledged to remove the product from shelves by the start of next year, becoming the second major supermarket chain to do so after the Co-op announced a similar decision in April.

Peat, made from plant material that has decomposed over thousands of years, has for decades been the most popular base for gardeners to use in pots and borders, but it has come under growing criticism in recent years for its impact on the environment.

It is extracted from ancient bogs in a process that releases vast amounts of carbon into the air, fuelling climate change, as well as disrupting an important habitat for plants and animals.

The supermarket chain sold 82 per cent more compost during the pandemic, the vast majority of which contained peat, it said. Last year it sold 10 million litres of compost, just 10 per cent of which was peat-free.

Alternatives made from wood fibre, wool or coconut material are growing in popularity, and recent studies have found these can perform just as well.

The Government has said it plans to ban the sale of compost containing peat to amateur gardeners by the close of the current parliament in 2024.

Marija Rompani, director of ethics and sustainability at the John Lewis Partnership said: “If rain forests are the lungs of the world, then peat bogs are its armour – helping to create a vital balance in our atmosphere by storing over a fifth of the world’s soil carbon.
“Peat bogs have been plundered for decades without fully understanding the consequences and this simply cannot continue.

"This is something that many of our customers feel strongly about and it’s because of this that we’re bringing forward our plans to remove all peat from our home compost offering."