Posted: 30 January, 2024. Written by RSS
What is the Responsible Sourcing Scheme for Growing Media?
The Responsible Sourcing Scheme (RSS) for growing media is an industry-led scheme that encourages the consumer to make informed decisions about the environmental impact of the growing media products (Multipurpose Compost for example) that they are purchasing and using. Consumers are provided with an easy-to-understand traffic light system, empowering them to easily compare the environmental responsibility rating enabling the consumer to make informed choices. The consumer can, at a glance, know with confidence that a product with a green ‘A’ rating is more responsibly sourced than a yellow ‘C’ rated product.
Why was the Responsible Sourcing Scheme created?
The horticultural industry needed to develop and innovate in the wake of the Government's planned proposal for the banning of peat for use in the amateur gardening sector by 2024. As peat was to be phased out of growing media products, alternative substrates were to be used and it was vitally important to assess the sustainability of these peat replacements. It would not be as simple as to conclude that alternatives to peat such as coir or bark were sustainable just because they weren’t peat, but to assess each growing media substrate equally against a stringent set of criteria. With over 10 years of development and working in cooperation with key industry stakeholders and DEFRA the Responsible Sourcing Scheme was launched in 2022.
What has been the impact of the Responsible Sourcing Scheme?
Since its creation, the RSS has made significant strides in promoting the environmental responsibility of those working with and in the growing media sector. By creating a clear, evidence-based rating system, it has brought much needed transparency to the industry, specifically at a time when there is uncertainty over growing media substrates as the industry is moving away from a reliance on peat. Manufacturers, growers and retailers who join the scheme not only commit to these sustainable practices but also gain the ability to showcase their environmental responsibility by proudly showcasing the RSS logo to both consumers and industry partners.
What is the role of producers of Green Compost and Digestate?
As the growing media industry adapts, especially with the ongoing reduction in peat usage, attention is increasingly turning to alternative substrates such as green compost and digestate. These materials are attracting interest for their strong performance against the scheme's seven criteria. The key to realising the potential of green compost and digestate and ensuring they are more widely adopted lies in producing a high-quality product free from contaminants and ensuring a consistent supply of material. Maintaining high production standards not only opens up opportunities for increased sales and better pricing but also builds trust and reliability in these materials as viable components of growing media.
Furthermore, collaboration between producers and manufacturers is essential. Producers must actively engage with manufacturers, providing the necessary data and support required for effective scoring of their materials within the scheme. This cooperation is vital for manufacturers who are keen to include these substrates in their products but need comprehensive information to efficiently navigate the scoring process.
What is the Future of the Responsible Sourcing Scheme?
The RSS is focused on expanding its reach within the growing media industry and its ultimate impact on the decision-making process of the final consumer. By providing clear and transparent scoring, the consumer has the information required to make a more responsible purchasing decision. This decision will be strengthened by further future changes, especially looking at increasing the depth of some of the scoring criteria. For example, due to the complexity of the data, the energy criteria are scored by measuring the energy used during the production process, and whilst this is a highly effective and accurate measure of the energy impact, the future is to also measure the carbon impact accordingly.
Coupled with the aspired changes noted above, the scheme is also working with its manufacturer members to strengthen the P7 testing criteria. The P7 criteria (which can be found here - https://www.responsiblesourcing.org.uk/key-documents) requires the manufacturer members of the scheme to show evidence that the growing media product they are selling is an effective growing media. The P7 outlines the method, test procedure and crops amongst other details, with the results assessed by the scheme's independent auditor. The effectiveness of growing media products is vital to the consumer, especially at the current time when new growing media substrates are being used in a combination of ways as a replacement for peat. It is vitally important to the consumer that the product is not only environmentally sustainable but also works. After all, a happy and well-informed consumer, able to successfully grow their chosen plants or flowers is great for the industry as a whole.
Who are the Current Responsible Sourcing Scheme Members?
The RSS estimates that 90% by material volume of growing media manufacturers are part of the scheme. Coupled with a solid base of grower and retailer members will allow for the framework for successful growth in the future. A list of current RSS members can be found on the RSS website, with additional members due to be added during QTR1 of 2024. Keep up to date at www.responsiblesourcing.org.uk.
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