Hackney Council glyphosate campaign: ‘Even one litre is too much, let alone 1,500’

PUBLISHED: 12:30 05 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:31 05 October 2016

A council worker seen spraying glyphosate in London Fields wildflower meadow, photo Pesticide Free Hackney

A council worker seen spraying glyphosate in London Fields wildflower meadow, photo Pesticide Free Hackney


Hackney Council is spraying more than 1,000 litres of the potentially carcinogenic weed killer glyphosate around the borough’s parks, schools and streets, new figures obtained in a Freedom of Information request reveal.

A machine spraying glyphosate on pavements in Hackney, photo Pesticide Free HackneyA machine spraying glyphosate on pavements in Hackney, photo Pesticide Free Hackney

Pressure is mounting after nearly 3,000 people signed a petition set up in April by campaign group Pesticide Free Hackney calling on the council to stop using the chemical altogether.

The council has disclosed it sprays an estimated 1,200 litres of glyphosate on paths in the borough to kill weeds every year. It is considered safe under UK law and the WHO, which last year labelled it “probably” carcinogenic, has since said it is unlikely to pose a risk to anyone who eats contaminated food.

A further 250 litres are used in communal lawn and shrub bed areas on housing estates and to control and eradicate Japanese Knotweed, while another 40 litres are used in the borough’s parks.

There are plans afoot to treat hard surfaces in housing estates for weed growth, but at this stage the council cannot say how much glyphosate they will use.

Nick Mole from hte Pesticide Action NetworkNick Mole from hte Pesticide Action Network

Weed killer manufacturers disputed last year’s finding.

Nick Mole from the Pesticide Action Network, who is also part of the movement in Hackney to ban glyphosate, said: “The bottom line is that any use is too high.

“Even one litre is too much because it’s unnecessary and there are other ways it can be dealt with.

“One very important thing the council should be asking the public is: ‘Would you rather have a few more weeds or harmful chemicals being sprayed where your children play?’”

He continued: “The only thing we grow in our towns and cities is our children and we want them to be as healthy as possible. We should be preventing them from being exposed to a potentially harmful substance when there are viable alternatives.”

In the UK Brighton, Hammersmith and Fulham, Bristol, Glastonbury, Erewash, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Frome councils have all stopped using glyphosate.

Three years ago the Gazette reported campaigners’ claims to have seen Hackney Council workers blanket spraying pavements with Round Up. The Chemical Regulation Directorate had prohibited blanket spraying on hard surfaces like pavements where there is little weed growth the year before.

A spokesman for Hackney Council said they do not blanket spray, and target individual weeds by spot spraying.

He added: “We have not changed our policy in relation to the use of glyphosate. 
“We will continue to use glyphosate for the targeted spraying of weeds as it continues to be declared safe by DEFRA, the Health and Safety Executive and the EU. 
“We follow government guidance but are open to alternative removal methods if they can be shown to be effective and affordable.”

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