Defra - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Science Search

Science and Research Projects

Return to Science Search homepage   Return to Project List

Coir in growing media: A sustainability assessment - SP1214

Coir has been identified as a material that has similar properties to peat and it is already used in commercial growing media. The aim of
this project is to assess the sustainability of coir and to ensure that one unsustainable material is not replaced with another in future
growing media products.
Horticultural coir is derived from the pithy material found between the coarse fibres of the coconut husk. There are many other
products that can be made from the coconut’s kernel, shell and husk and coir tends to be a by-product of these - a fact that should score
favourably in any sustainability assessment, as virgin raw material is not needed. Figures suggest that only about 10% of all coconut husks
available globally are used for coir production, with the rest mostly discarded. Could the growing demand for coir in some way be met
through the more productive utilisation of this waste?
This project sets out to determine the potential for sustainable growth in coir production and incorporates wider socio-economic, land
use and natural environment considerations. It will explore how value can be created from the various products of a coconut palm and
distributed fairly amongst the producers and exporters. A full sustainability audit will be undertaken to understand the environmental
and ethical issues along the whole supply chain.
1. Agree sustainability criteria and the scope of the work with DEFRA and use this as the framework for collecting, analysing and reporting information
2. Identify countries and regions with the greatest potential to supply sustainable coir to the UK. To include he following:
- Coconut and coir production in producing countries to establish waste volumes and potential for producing coir
- Infrastructure available to produce coir, export potential, quality and consistency of product and supply (will require UK growing media producers to specify quality grade required)
- Country/regional policies to expand production of coir; government initiatives to support future production
- Country/regional policies or legislation on labour issues, environmental impacts for coconut/coir production
- understand current players in the supply chain in countries of interest and what a sustainable supply chain should look like
- understand current value chains, specifically the small producers versus large exporters and the
economics of the different stages of the supply chains and multiple coconut products. Explore how this
might change to alleviate poverty and bring greater economic benefits to communities
- establish land use figures, country-regional concerns/policies/strategies with respect to the natural
environment, understand the environmental hotspots and links to coconut and coir production.
3. Environmental, economic and social challenges and opportunities for coir supply chains
- Conduct a sustainability audit on a typical coir supply chain (the criteria depends on those recommended
by SGMTF. Newleaf are expecting to include land use, biodiversity and habitat impacts, water extraction, water consumption and water and land pollution, labour issues, community development, cultural issues and local economics).
- Develop recommendations for addressing these challenges and use this to underpin the development of a sustainable sourcing policy for coir for future use by UK growing media producers and retailers
- Conduct a literature survey on current research, innovation programmes and initiatives aimed at increasing productivity of coir production and addressing environmental, economic and social challenges
within the supply chain.
4. Impacts of increasing demand on regional economics, labour and communities and the natural environment
- Explore the potential for unsustainable development and how it can be avoided
- Explore the potential for sustainable development and how it can be encouraged – government and
regional policy, certification schemes.
5. Delivery of final report and recommendations.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : DEFRA Final Report SP1214   (4405k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2012

To: 2012

Cost: £20,850
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Newleaf Sustainability Practice