Council looks to chemical week killer alternative

Dudley Council are set to consult on an alternative method to kill weeds in public green spaces.

In a report debated at the housing and public realm scrutiny committee on Wednesday, the authority is looking to reduce and/or eradicate the use of glyphosate for managing weed control in the borough.

Glyphosate was first introduced in 1971. The weed killer when sprayed can move throughout the plant, killing roots and shoots. After the weed killer has been sprayed, it can take a few weeks to take effect.

It is one of few products left available to successfully control invasive species such as Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed, which can plague Dudley’s grass edges, shrub beds, and pedestrianised areas.

Local authorities are coming under increased pressure to seek alternatives to glyphosate as the public becomes more aware of its potentially damaging effects on local green spaces.

Three members of the public spoke in favour of seeking alternatives to glyphosate. Karl Denning, who is visually impaired and lives in Upper Gornal, raised concerns about the use of glyphosate on his guide dog, named Bilko.

He said: “I’ve been told this glyphosate is a type of spray. It obviously goes over the pavement, the grass where they’re actually applying.

“Being visually impaired I can’t actually see it. And to be fair, my guide dog probably won’t either. There’s the chance of damaging my dog’s paws with the weed killer, and since it’s chemical, there’s always the transfer of chemical burns.

“They openly say that the weed killer sticks to plants. So, I would have assumed that it sticks to dog and animal fur too. I am worried that they might ingest a chemical too.

“I would prefer to see re-wilding. Letting plants grow, with wildflowers in places, and on all curb lines, and everything else actually removed by hand or by machine.”

Representatives from Pesticide Free Dudley, Friends of the Earth also spoke out against the use of glyphosate. In a report read out at the meeting, they said: “We are concerned that in working towards a reduction in the use of glyphosate, Dudley may move towards the use of an alternative pesticide in Katoun Gold, which is listed as being harmful to bees (para 22 of the report).

“This substance was also rejected in trials by Brighton and Hove Council, who noted that it was 'ineffective' as well as expensive.”

Labour Councillor Adam Aston, who represents Upper Gornal and Woodsetton and is shadow cabinet member for housing and communities, said: “Glyphosate has found its way into every aspect of our lives, from the food we eat, the water we drink. This stuff is everywhere.

“The tide has started to turn with responsible retailers like Waitrose having withdrawn it from sale.

“At some point glyphosate will be banned and we must be ready for that. I accept that stopping the use of glyphosate spraying will result in the urban environment looking different... but we have local groups in our community who are ready and willing to help but the council must work with them.”

Dudley Council spends £315,617 per year on controlling and killing weeds. It aims to trial different modes of weed killers in 2022.

It believes by using alternative methods of weed killer, such as Chikara, a residual herbicide, could result in a further 23.7 per cent decrease in the council’s overall glyphosate usage.

The council have also been looking into trialling the number of strimmers and weed rippers used in the borough.

The committee have sent a recommendation to the cabinet that localised trials by Greencare without glyphosate should go ahead.

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