Sheffield Council to reduce use of poisonous weed killer

Sheffield Council is reviewing and reducing the use of glyphosate on its land following calls for a ban on the harmful herbicide which has been linked to cancer.

By Molly Williams, Local Democracy Reporter
Friday, 3rd September 2021, 4:22 pm
Updated Friday, 3rd September 2021, 4:22 pm

The local authority’s leaders are scheduled to decide on plans to reduce use of the weed killer, which campaigners warn is also dangerous to humans and animals, in a meeting later this month.

Sheffield Green Party has lobbied the council to follow other authorities around the world in completely banning glyphosate for years.

Green councillor Alison Teal, executive member for sustainable neighbourhoods, wellbeing, parks and leisure, said the council’s reduction plan would see several different trials and consultation with communities.

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One of these will be stopping the use of glyphosate in parks around hedgerows, floral beds, shrub beds, rose beds and planted areas.

Another will ask people if they would be willing to help remove weeds on small areas outside their homes.

She said: “I’m really pleased that the fact we have got some Greens in the co-exec has probably helped move this along so I’m pleased about having been able to point to this and say ‘we have had an impact here’.”

She added: “It’s really important that we stop using toxic chemicals … If we are using herbicides and we are killing off weeds then we are exposing soil and when you expose soil, it washes away and it ends up silting waterways and what have you and soil is very precious.”

Coun Teal said both councillors and officers were on board despite not yet finding an effective and efficient alternative.

She said: “I don’t really feel like I am fighting such a big battle any more, there has been such a change in general I think because of XR [Extinction Rebellion] and Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough, the pressures are being brought to bear and people are really starting to get it now and that is the most pleasing part.

“We are not having to fight so much, it’s about working together to find realistic solutions and that is a really good place to be.”

The Green Party also brought a motion to declare a nature emergency at a full council meeting earlier this year that was unanimously supported.

A petition to ban glyphosate, which gathered more than 6,300 signatures, was later presented at another full council meeting.

Graham Wroe, who launched the petition, said at the time: “In Sheffield we spray ridiculous amounts of poisonous glyphosate on our streets, parks and playgrounds every year.

“It is unnecessary, unsightly – leaving dead vegetation at the side of verges and walls – and dangerous, not just to insects and birds but to humans and pets too.

“There are plenty of safe alternatives, from letting the wild-flowers grow, hand weeding, mechanical weeding and spraying hot foam or acetic acid.”

He found out using the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that the council and its contractor Amey used more glyphosate last year than in the previous two years.

The FOI request revealed more than 4,680 litres of it were used in 2020, compared to 4,211.5 litres in 2019 and 4,525 litres in 2018.