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Vapo to raise environmental responsibility in peat production to a new level

The Board of Directors of Vapo Oy has approved new guidelines for the company which will raise environmental responsibility in peat production well above the legal requirements for environmental permits. The company’s new environmental responsibility commitments for peat production are as follows:

  • In line with its strategy for bogs and peatlands, the company will in future apply for environmental permits and open new production areas only for peatlands where the natural state has been altered, generally meaning ditched peatlands.
  • New production bogs reduce the suspended solid and humus load leaching to downstream watercourses compared to the initial situation prior to the commencement of peat production.
  • All production bogs are subject to emissions monitoring during the production season and half of production areas are subject to year-round emissions monitoring.

Vapo has conducted a survey of attitudes to peat production among decision-makers and the general public. In both groups the main concerns are the threats posed by peat production to bogs in the natural state and the watercourse impacts of peat production. Another view widely expressed in public is that there is inadequate statutory emissions monitoring of peat production areas.

Vapo announced a responsibility programme in December 2011, in which the company undertook to install best available technology water treatment at all peat production areas by the end of 2014. At the same time the company announced the introduction of a voluntary inspection procedure to check the water treatment structures of all production bogs at two-week intervals. A further new practice is that the monitoring data and contact details of the persons responsible for production areas are published on our website. The responsibility programme also set a target that bogs of significant natural value owned by the company should either be sold off for conservation purposes or exchanged for ditched peatlands. The company also undertook to install and trial continuous water monitoring equipment at several production areas throughout Finland. 

According to CEO Tomi Yli-Kyyny, implementation of the actions to enhance environmental and social responsibility announced in December 2011 has in many respects exceeded the plan. According to Yli-Kyyny, the company is on schedule in installing water treatment systems at peat production areas, the sale of bogs of natural value for conservation purposes has advanced very well and contractors have been very proficient at carrying out monitoring of water treatment systems.  Development of reliable continuous metering is an ongoing challenge. The reliability and accuracy of the meters has not been adequate, but here too we are advancing according to plan.

New commitments to respond to the concerns of the general public

According to Yli-Kyyny, Vapo wants to show the way in responsible peat production. For this reason we are defining our new responsibility commitments in the aspects of peat production which are of concern to the general public, Yli-Kyyny says. In future Vapo will not apply for environmental permits for bogs in categories 4 and 5, in line with the strategy on sustainable and responsible usage of bogs and peatlands. Vapo will produce peat only at peatlands where the natural state has been altered, generally meaning forest-ditched peatlands. The other significant commitment is that the commencement of peat production should not increase the suspended solid and humus load leaching to downstream watercourses. This commitment applies to bogs where production is started from 2016.

We measure the background load at future production areas for several years before production is started and we undertake that once peat production has started the load in area is lower than in the beginning, taking into account the natural fluctuation between years. In order to keep our promise, we will if necessary extend the scope of our water treatment systems beyond peat production areas, Yli-Kyyny says. 

The third promise has to do with emissions monitoring of production bogs. In future all bogs will be monitored regularly. This move will be phased in gradually. Our objective is to have all of our bogs monitored by 2014 at the latest, Yli-Kyyny says. 

The costs of the responsibility programme announced previously total around EUR 30 million. The commitments announced now will raise peat production costs by an estimated EUR 3 – 5 million per annum. Our new, transparent approach is designed to demonstrate that the harmful impacts of peat production can be eliminated, ensuring that our domestic peat resources, which provide jobs and are very important for the economy, can continue to be part of the Finnish energy mix and enjoy the support of decision-makers and the general public. 

For further information please contact:
Ahti Martikainen, Director, Communications and Public Affairs, tel. +358 40 680 4723