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Hackney Council praised by environmental campaigner for pioneering glyphosate-free trial

PUBLISHED: 07:45 28 August 2019 | UPDATED: 07:45 28 August 2019

Deputy mayor Cllr Feryal Demirci, with environment chief Cllr Jon Burke and Nick Mole, Pesticide Action Network policy officer. Picture: Hackney Council

Deputy mayor Cllr Feryal Demirci, with environment chief Cllr Jon Burke and Nick Mole, Pesticide Action Network policy officer. Picture: Hackney Council

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Hackney Council is the first local authority in the country to trial a glyphosate-free area to see if it can carry out high quality maintenance without the weedkiller.

A patch of green space left to grow to determine what kind of plants can grow in the area. Picture: Hackney CouncilA patch of green space left to grow to determine what kind of plants can grow in the area. Picture: Hackney Council

The move has been praised by a central figure in the six-year battle to ban the herbicide, who said other councils should follow suit.

The "no-spray" pilot was launched in Homerton earlier this summer.

It comes after a protest on the steps of the town hall in May in which parents and their children pretended to die from pesticide poisoning.

The council has already reduced the amount used on its streets by 50 per cent since May last year by removing weeds by hand, stopping spraying in more than 100km of high streets, reducing the number of sprays from four to three a season, and changing the way it's applied - from vehicles to workers with knapsacks.

A patch of green space left to grow to determine what kind of plants can grow in the area. Picture: Hackney CouncilA patch of green space left to grow to determine what kind of plants can grow in the area. Picture: Hackney Council

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Pressure has been mounting since it emerged £40,000 was being spent annually on the pesticide - which was found to be "probably carcinogenic" to humans in 2015 by the by the International Agency for Research on Cancer and reduces the diversity of wildlife.

Cllr Jon Burke has said if the council thought there was a threat to public health and safety it would already be banned.

On the trial, he added: "The use of herbicides has a significant impact on the environment by removing plants that are an important food source for a wide variety of native insects. We not only face a climate emergency, we also face the related emergency of collapsing biodiversity that is increasingly referred to as the 'sixth mass extinction'. By radically reducing the spraying of herbicides, Hackney can increasingly create the conditions in which insects thrive.

"We believe this trial is unique in the UK. Other local authorities have replaced glyphosate with biodegradable alternatives, but this still removes plants that support insect populations."

Pesticide Action Network policy officer Nick Mole said: "Hackney is to be commended for taking this bold step to stop the spraying of herbicides and allow nature to flourish.

"This really is a model for other councils to follow if they are serious about reducing and ending the use of herbicides and restoring urban biodiversity."

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