Hackney Council use of Glyphosate
Hackney Council uses glyphosate (in the form of Roundup) primarily to control weeds on pavements and paths, and to a much lesser extent in green spaces. The product is always administered by qualified staff or contractors following the application guidelines, and it is applied directly onto the weeds. Since the summer of 2018, the Council has been developing a new approach aimed at significantly reducing glyphosate usage on Hackney’s streets, while reviewing its use elsewhere; discussing emerging alternatives; and identifying new opportunities to reduce spraying, as part of a managed retreat from glyphosate use.
Since May 2018 Hackney Council has taken a number of actions to reduce Glyphosate use:
- Immediately reduced the number of roads sprayed with glyphosate by 20 per cent
- Changed the way the Council sprays from operatives mounted on vehicles to spot-spraying with knapsacks
- Reduced the number of sprays from four to three per season
- Stop spraying more than 100km of pavements on high streets
- Removed spraying from altogether from Hackney’s Town centres, removing weeds by hand instead of chemically.
These actions have resulted in a reduction of approximately 600 litres of glyphosate a year in the borough; a 50 per cent reduction in on-street spraying against 2017 levels.
The next steps in this process will be to review glyphosate use across other service areas and develop a pilot area in Hackney, subject to resident consultation, where we cease spraying altogether for a defined period of time in order to assess the impact on biodiversity.
In the meantime, we will continue to significantly reduce the spraying of glyphosate in a managed way, as long as it remains declared safe for use by Defra, the Health and Safety Executive, and the EU. These conclusions are also supported by the Council’s own independent report on glyphosate use (undertaken by the Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards at Public Health England, and commissioned under the former Mayor of Hackney) and the broader literature on the public health implications of spraying this material.
The European variant of glyphosate, which we use, remains declared safe and licensed for use by Defra, the Health and Safety Executive, and the EU. These conclusions are also supported by the Council’s own independent report on glyphosate use undertaken by the Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards and Public Health England.
The majority of the borough's use of glyphosate is for weed removal on our streets. I have been working with Council officers and external organisations - prior to the most recent court rulings on glyphosate in the United States, which I have been following with interest - to significantly reduce glyphosate use in the borough in a managed way.
This includes an immediate reduction, following the 2018 Local Elections, in the number of roads sprayed with glyphosate by 20 per cent. Following this, by changing the way we spray - from operatives mounted on vehicles to spot-spraying with knapsacks, and by reducing sprays from four to three per season - we have been able to limit our glyphosate use even further; reducing the amount of on-street spraying by 50 per cent compared with 2017 levels.
I am inclined to pursue the ‘precautionary principle’ on environmental matters, both in terms of human health and biodiversity, hence the pathway I have been developing in relation to significantly reducing glyphosate use in Hackney.Ultimately, no spraying is preferable to alternative forms of weed control, which are both costly and still remove a valuable food source for pollinators; that’s why Hackney’s focus has been and remains on eliminating spraying outright, wherever possible.