Rebuilding a greener Hackney – Council estates go glyphosate free for 2021

More than 200 green areas across Hackney’s housing estates are set to go glyphosate-free for 2021 as part of the Council’s latest innovative efforts to reduce the use of harmful weedkillers and boost biodiversity in the borough.

The pilot, which will see use of glyphosate on shrub beds, rosebeds and hedges on estates halted for an initial twelve months from the new year, will mean planting some additional wildflower meadows to encourage green spaces to flourish without herbicides and increasing the use of leaves and tree mulch as a more natural way of suppressing weeds.

Glyphosate is one of the most commonly-used herbicides for removing weeds in the UK and worldwide. While there is no government guidance against its use, this type of chemical weedkiller can have a negative effect on our environment and biodiversity by removing plants which are relied upon by birds, insects and other wildlife.

The move follows a Council trial in parts of Clapton in 2019, with a glyphosate-free area covering streets, green spaces and estates implemented in the Daubeney area to promote biodiversity and see how high standards of street maintenance can continue without the use of the herbicide. This herbicide-free area has now expanded to the whole King’s Park ward. 

The Council has already significantly limited the use of glyphosate in recent years, including reducing the number of roads sprayed with glyphosate by 20%, changing from weedkiller sprayed from vehicles to spot-spraying, reducing the number of sprays from four to three per season and stopping spraying altogether in town centres and on more than 100km of pavements on high streets.

With 237 estate-based green spaces managed by the Council, the areas covered in the pilot will incorporate a huge part of Hackney’s green infrastructure.

Cllr Clayeon McKenzie, Cabinet Member for Housing Services
From encouraging people to walk and cycle in the borough more to installing solar panels on Council buildings through our own renewable energy services company, we’re already demonstrating our commitment to rebuilding a greener Hackney as part of our coronavirus recovery.

Council estates provide a vital green resource for the borough, and I’m committed to ensuring that the way we manage these also contributes towards our plans to tackle the climate emergency.

This pilot will build on our other recent efforts to reduce the use of harmful weedkillers so that green spaces on estates don’t just provide places for Council residents to enjoy but provide a boost for local wildlife and Hackney’s biodiversity.
Cllr Clayeon McKenzie, Cabinet Member for Housing Services
Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm
We are facing a climate and biodiversity crisis, which - if we do not take action - will see 13% of species in England become extinct. 

In May 2019, hundreds of children visited me at the Town Hall to demand a greater reduction of chemical spraying in the borough. I’m delighted to be able to honour the commitment I made to them by taking this next step in our ambitious glyphosate reduction programme.

The expansion of glyphosate-free zones to green spaces on estates is the culmination of two years’ work across our streets and public spaces to drastically reduce its use, including by eliminating the majority of the glyphosate we spray on our streets, removing weeds in town centres by hand, and the pioneering no chemical spray area in King’s Park ward. I’m proud to have worked with Council officers to deliver this commitment.
Cllr Jon Burke, Cabinet Member for Energy, Waste, Transport and Public Realm

How glyphosate-free estates will work

  • January 2021 – use of glyphosate on Hackney-managed estates will stop
  • March 2021 – weeds will start to grow and establish in areas normally managed through herbicides
  • June 2021 – weeds will be managed through manual weeding techniques and mulch and leaves from trees, or incorporated into wildflower planting schemes 
  • November 2021 – feedback sought from residents on the impact on estates