Weed management is obviously important to some residents but how we manage these weeds is critical as it has the potential to threaten vital ecosystems and the health of people. We are facing an unprecedented climate and ecological emergency. The continued use of 460 litres of glyphosates each year by the City of York Council and the contractors we hire has alarming repercussions for insects, small animals, and even amphibians in water courses. The latter tends to happen when spraying occurs and reaches water courses via run-off from spraying close to roads or drains. Alongside harming ecosystems, we threaten vital pollinators that support the food systems upon which we depend. In 2019, York Council unanimously passed a Green motion to this effect which was followed by a Council Pollinator Strategy last year.
I was pleased to see that the report recommends a new contract of only two years in light of the need to review our current, excessive use of glyphosates. Nonetheless, this contract accounts for approximately only half of glyphosate spraying undertaken in the City of York area as Council staff do much of it in house. Therefore, I would urge the Council to work with experts and organisations like the Pesticide Action Network to look at immediately replacing spraying undertaken by Council staff with manual-cutting, mechanical, or heating methods; perhaps learning from trials done by local authorities elsewhere. Manual methods, such as strimming would be particularly effective where we currently spray around lampposts, street signs, benches etc. In this way, we can move closer to using glyphosate only in exceptional circumstances.
In the meantime, however, I would strongly urge the Executive Member for the Environment to consider reducing the number of glyphosate applications per year from three down to two, as many other local authorities do (recognised in an annex of the report). This is a quick win we can take now to save money and reduce our impact upon the environment. Savings from reducing the applications could potentially then be used to fund the new infrastructure and equipment required for alternative methods of weed management.