Has Bristol non-herbicide weed control trial been designed to fail? PDF Print E-mail
Recent reports in the press referring to the current herbicide-free weed control trial in the Cotham area of Bristol have claimed that the “whole city stinks of vinegar” and that residents are unhappy about this. These reports have completely ignored the significance of this trial and instead tried to undermine the very good intentions behind it, instead resorting to sensationalist reporting of what is a very important issue not only for Bristol but for the UK as a whole.

However, in one respect, the articles are correct: the trial is a farce, and will fail to provide any insight into how to manage weeds without pesticides.

When Bristol Council announced that a trial area was to be established to explore options for stopping the use of glyphosate, and other potentially harmful herbicides, it was warmly welcomed by the Pesticide Action Network UK (PAN UK) who have long been campaigning for an end to the use of toxic herbicides on the streets of towns and cities in the UK.

But sadly, it looks like the current trial has been set up to fail. The Council currently proposes to leave 75% of the trial area completely untreated and use just vinegar – a technique that has been shown not to be effective in large scale urban weed control – in the remainder. This is not a proper trial by any stretch of the imagination. Many other effective alternatives exist, and are already in use in other European and UK cities.  It is hard to fathom why Bristol has chosen to ignore these options, and it is incredibly disappointing that this opportunity is being squandered.

Residents would be correct to complain if most of the area is left to grow weeds with no control whatsoever, it is just inviting complaints. Is this so that Bristol Council can dismiss the idea of going pesticide-free? The Council has some important questions to answer about this half-hearted approach. There are many hundreds of examples from around the world of towns and cities, both larger and smaller than Bristol, which have effective, sustainable, economic, non-chemical weed and pest control regimes in place. Pesticide-free is possible!

PAN UK urges Bristol Council to look more closely at this trial and to invite the use of the full range of non-chemical techniques. If this is not done, the trial will be a pointless exercise. It is clear that the residents of Bristol, who the Council represent, want to see an end to the use of toxic pesticides on their streets. It is therefore incumbent on Bristol Council and their officers to ensure that a full and thorough trial of all non-chemical weed control options available is undertaken. This is what the people of Bristol want.

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