Butterfly Conservation and other leading wildlife organisations are joining forces to call for a tax of at least £1 to be put on each bag of high quality peat based compost.
Peat bogs are being dug up for compost to spread on gardens, but are full of rare wildlife including threatened butterflies like the Large Heath. They also suck up carbon, helping to tackle climate change.
The compost is considered so environmentally damaging that the Government has asked garden centres to phase out selling the compost over the next 20 years.
But so far the voluntary agreement is failing to cut the amount of peat used. From 2007 to 2009, total UK peat use fell by just over one per cent as gardeners continue to buy the cheap material to make plants grow faster.
Butterfly Conservation , Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Plantlife, Buglife and the Wildlife Trusts are warning that gardeners are now destroying wildlife in Continental Europe and Ireland after using up our own resources.
In a new report the groups suggest that the only way to stop the trend is to put a tax on peat so consumers are attracted to buy alternatives like coir made from coconut husks.
Dr Martin Warren, Chief Executive of Butterfly Conservation said “The use of peat in gardens is a crucial issue for wildlife and climate change.
"Peat costs society £32 million every year because of rising carbon emissions and loss of wildlife. We do not believe that the levy would harm the industry as the most companies are already making alternatives, but it would raise money to conserve our dwindling wildlife and consumers into more environmentally friendly behaviour.”