Pesticide use in Bristol
Bristol City Council is the largest land owner in the city, responsible for weed management in public spaces including the highways and streets, schools, parks operations, nature conservation, housing, and cemeteries.
A number of weed control approaches and methods are used, including chemical control, carried out through internal or contractor arrangements.
In his 2016 manifesto, Bristol’s Mayor Marvin Rees made a commitment to reducing pesticide use. This was a welcome recognition of the need to tackle pesticide use in urban spaces, but this has not been put into practice.
With the exception of a trial of vinegar and hand-weeding in the ward of Cotham, little action has been taken to explore alternative weed control methods. And, despite repeated requests from the Alliance, we’ve been unable to obtain information from the council regarding the exact volumes of pesticides used on council land.
The mix of chemicals used Bristol includes glyphosate, a broad-spectrum pesticide currently under review in Europe due to widespread concerns about its hazardous impact on human health.
The UK has no national plans to reduce urban pesticide use, meaning that city councils need to take the lead in adopting pesticide-free policies across the large land banks that they control.
Copenhagen and Nantes, Bristol’s two immediate predecessors as European Green Capital, have already embraced pesticide-free policies, along with hundreds of other cities and towns worldwide. Their leadership shows it is possible to control weeds without chemicals and within budget.
It is time for Bristol to follow suit.