Petition against using pesticides in our urban spaces: what are the alternatives?

A petition has been launched to stop Bristol City Council reinstating the use of weed killer made of toxic chemicals called “glyphosates” on our pavements, in our parks and around our urban spaces. Glyphosate has been linked to harming bees and butterflies, and the World Health Organisation has said it may cause cancer. Several councils have banned toxic pesticides. The link to the petition is here:

Some residents are concerned about uncontrolled weeds in our urban spaces. Is there an alternative to spraying glyphosates?

Pesticide Action network say the following about using alternative to pesticides in our urban spaces:

Raising public awareness is absolutely key to the success of going pesticide-free. Councils and other land managers must ensure they communicate their plan of action, and their reasons for change, to the public. If local residents understand the health and environmental benefits they are much more likely to support the initiative and accept a higher level of ‘weediness’. It is also possible to get local volunteers to help with jobs such as hand weeding. PAN UK is keen to work with councils and other land managers to devise bespoke strategies for ending pesticide use tailored to fit their local context.There are a range of different approaches available to councils and other land managers that decide to stop using pesticides. The effectiveness of each method will vary greatly depending on the local context and environment and, in most cases, a suite of different approaches will be required to replace pesticides.

Alternatives methods include:
  • Hot foam systems, like hot water systems, kill plants using heat, but can be used in all weather conditions. This gives them a major advantage over chemical herbicides which can only be sprayed under ideal weather conditions.
  • Hand weeding is an option particularly for smaller areas such as playgrounds and on paths running through parks.
  • Acetic acid dilutions have been used very effectively to control weeds on hard surfaces in a variety of situations. Acetic acid is biodegradable and poses no risk of bioaccumulation.
  • Various types of manual approaches are available in the form of differing types of mulching. This is a particularly useful approach in ornamental beds and in parks.
  • Flame treatment has been used successfully to eliminate weeds.
  • Steel brushing can be used for large scale areas such as pavements and roads and in combination with the use of acetic acid spraying can be a very effective alternative.
  • High pressure hot water treatments can be particularly effective and also have other uses such as chewing gum removal.
  • Electronic control systems that kill stems and roots instantly and are particularly suited to dealing with invasive species are also available.