Title: Life cycle assessment of peat substitutes : characteristics, availability, environmental sustainability and social impacts
Authors : Stucki, Matthias
Wettstein, Sarah
Amrein, Simon
Mathis, Alex
et. al : No
Conference details: 9th International Conference on Life Cycle Management, Poznan, Poland, 1-4 September 2019
Issue Date: 3-Sep-2019
License (according to publishing contract) : Not specified
Type of review: Not specified
Language : English
Subjects : LCA; Horticulture; Carbon Footprint; Peat
Subject (DDC) : 333: Economics of land and resources
Abstract: Goal: Peat extraction leads to environmental damage in terms of climate and biodiversity. In Switzerland, peat bogs have been protected since 1987 and no peat is currently extracted. However, Switzerland imports an estimated 524’000 m3 of peat per year. In order to reduce environmental damage abroad as well, the Federal Council adopted a peat phase-out concept in 2012. The Institute of Natural Resource Sciences of the Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW) assessed the environmental sustainability of various peat substitutes as well as their characteristics, availability and social impacts. Among other products, coconut fibres, cocopeat, bark compost, wood fibres, wood chippings, and TEFA maize fibres were investigated. A follow-up study aimed at further promoting the termination of peat use by extending the study with additional peat alternatives. These are biochar, miscanthus, flax and hemp fibres, grain husks, and coal compost. Methods: The present research project is intended to provide a picture of the environmental impacts of individual substrates and substrate mixtures by means of life cycle assessment, whereby the entire life cycle (raw material extraction, substrate production, transport, use, end-of-life) is taken into account. The substrate components and substrate mixtures are also being evaluated in particular with regard to their crop cultivation properties and medium- to long-term availability for Switzerland. In addition, the study also considers social criteria, which are assessed qualitatively. Finally, the study will provide recommendations for horticulture and, in particular, for producers of ornamental plants, perennials and vegetables. Results: All substrate components exhibit both positive and negative properties with respect to the criteria investigated. Replacing peat with local products such as miscanthus, hemp and flax fibres, wood fibres, TEFA maize fibres or bark compost significantly reduces the emissions of extraction, transport and use of peat. With regard to ecological and social aspects, bark compost, TEFA maize fibres, wood fibres, wood chippings and husks perform very well. As these products are expected to be available in the future, their use as peat substitutes is highly recommended. The availability of wood fibres and wood chippings depends on the price of the energy industry and is therefore subject to fluctuations. Hemp and flax fibres, husks, TEFA maize fibres, and bark compost, on the other hand, hardly compete with energy use. These products are therefore expected to be readily available for horticulture in the future and can be manufactured without significant negative ecological and social impacts. The coconut-based substrate components are associated with higher environmental impacts and social risks than locally manufactured products. On the contrary, the social impacts of production and processing of peat substitutes are assumed to be very low or non-existent in Switzerland. Biochar can be produced locally with readily available substrates and has similar consistency and properties to peat, making it an attractive peat alternative. Environmental impact of peat substitutes are lowest if they are locally produced and processed with low material and energy consumption, when few pesticides and fertilisers have been used in agricultural cultivation and no thermal processing is necessary after harvesting. Form of Presentation: Oral presentation Panel and Session: Theme 1 (T1): Sustainable Products. Session T1-8 Sustainability of Agri-Food Products
Departement: Life Sciences and Facility Management
Organisational Unit: Institute of Natural Resource Sciences (IUNR)
Publication type: Conference other
URI: https://digitalcollection.zhaw.ch/handle/11475/18105
Published as part of the ZHAW project : Erweiterung der Studie Ökobilanzen für Alternativsubstrate zu Torf
Ökobilanz von Torf, Alternativsubstraten und Substratmischungen
Appears in Collections:Publikationen Life Sciences und Facility Management

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