Alarming number of UK topsoils fall short of British Standard

Almost 50% of topsoils are unsuitable for use in general purpose landscaping schemes and residential gardens, not even meeting the latest British Standard, according to recent testing of products across the UK market, undertaken on behalf of Yorkshire-based industry leader, the Rolawn Group. 

Growing concerns over the quality of topsoil products on sale in the UK led Rolawn to commission an
independent testing and analysis study in 2021.

News - Rolawn topsoil

Market research company PCP were engaged to test purchase a total of 45 ‘bulk bags’ of topsoil from 26 different suppliers throughout the UK. The products being tested were available for purchase by builders, landscapers, and the general public, supplied by businesses including online retailers, builders’ merchants and topsoil manufacturers, as well as Rolawn themselves.

Samples of the topsoil were taken by PCP and sent for independent testing to one of the UK’s leading MCERTS and UKAS accredited soil testing facilities and commentary on the results were provided by Tim O’Hare Associates.

For a range of reasons, nearly 50% of the results came back as not suitable for use in general purpose landscaping schemes and residential gardens, nor did they meet the British Standard BS3882:2015.

In one sample, an elevated level of a carcinogenic chemical was found and, in another, asbestos fibres. Furthermore, many of the failed results indicate potential issues due to PAS100/Sand mixes whereby food waste may be coming through into the final product and contributing to the failures.

The results of the study raise some key questions around quality assurance, product consistency and whether it is time for the industry to become more accountable.

Rolawn Managing Director and Chairman, Paul Dawson, said: “The research supports our concerns that too little attention is being paid to the quality of products, risking serious reputational damage to the industry at large and damaging consumer trust.”

“Clearly something is wrong here. Perhaps the introduction of regular independent testing, rather than the current requirements for a manufacturer to submit their own sample for every 5000 m³, would help to ensure that products are consistent and suitable for use.”

Rolawn has been at the forefront of the industry for many years and has developed robust systems and processes to ensure products are safe, fit for purpose and suitable for their intended use, demonstrated with independently verified systems and processes such as ISO 9001, testing regime and materials sourcing protocols.