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Everything you need to know about coir compost

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What is coir?

Coir, sometimes referred to as coconut fibre, or even ‘cocopeat’ is a natural fibre taken from coconut husks. Coir is incredibly durable and rot-resistant (due to its high lignin content) and is used for a wide range of products. The outer fibre has a straw-like consistency and is often woven to make hard-wearing rugs, doormats, rope, baskets and brushes. The pith found between these straw-like fibres is used to create coir compost.

How is coir used in compost?

Coir acts as an effective growing medium and has been used by commercial crop growers as a sustainable alternative to peat and rockwool for many years.

It comes as no surprise that coir is professionally approved. It is proven to last at least three times as long as peat (which has a very low lignin content), so it’s favoured by soft fruit growers, such as those growing strawberries and tomatoes. Plus, it’s a natural bi-product and renewable resource emerging from the booming coconut industries worldwide.

Coir is also increasingly being discovered by home-growers as an environmentally friendly alternative to peat-based composts that can be used without compromising on performance. Unlike green waste, which has always had quality issues (specifically with contaminating plastics/herbicides), it offers consistent and reliable results.

Is coir sustainable?

Coir comes from coconut trees which are an incredibly valuable resource. One hectare of trees produces 9,000 coconuts, which translates into 5 tonnes of nutritious coconut meat, 6 tonnes of coir and 3.5 tonnes of coconut shell.

Coconuts can be harvested every 45 days on average, making coir a renewable resource. What’s more, because coconut trees are hardwood, their wood is used in housebuilding at the end of their lifespan, sequestering its carbon for decades. Coconut trees also increase the soil carbon in their root zone every year, so they make a real contribution to enriching the soil while taking CO2 out of the atmosphere.

One of the historical concerns about using coconuts to produce coir products was the impact that the washing and buffering processes could have on the local environment. This is a legitimate concern but our coir supplier is the first in the world to have installed a wastewater treatment system to ensure that their coir has no adverse effects on the local environment, alleviating this concern and guaranteeing that coir remains a sustainable resource.

Using coir in products such as compost also helps to solve a waste disposal problem in areas where coconuts are harvested commercially for the food industry. Recycling this valuable material to make a product that helps both commercial and home gardeners grow food instead of letting it go to waste is a no-brainer.

When mixed with biochar, a pure, high-carbon form of charcoal, coir creates an even more sustainable compost than when used in isolation. Because it is so high in carbon, biochar doesn’t break down over time. So, every time you use a coir-based compost with biochar, you are permanently taking carbon out of the atmosphere and burying it underground, which has a positive impact on the environment.

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Peat vs coir

Of course, there is the carbon cost of transport, but that can’t really be avoided, and it’s less than a fraction of the carbon cost of using peat. Peat is 60% water, coir is 11%. You just add the water to coir once it has arrived, so you aren’t incurring the transport cost (and emissions) of shipping water over long distances.

Peatlands are a wonderful way of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and storing it. Digging up peatlands is a short-sighted way of making our climate far worse. In fact, every year destroyed peatlands contribute 10% of worldwide emissions from fossil fuels. Coir lasts longer, works better and is a by-product of nutritious food. We must stop using peat, not least as there is a superior alternative that’s good for your soil and good for the Earth.

 

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Author

Sue Rawlings

Head of Finance & Operations

Sue Rawlings, Head of Finance & Operations Carbon Gold

Category: Guides

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