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Council continue to use controversial weedkiller: Thousands of litres of Glyphosate sprayed in 2019

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Weeds sprayed with a herbicide. Photo by fir0002 (Wikimedia Commons).

Sheffield City Council have continued to use thousands of litres of a controversial weedkiller which environmental campaigners say damages the environment needlessly.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request submitted by Now Then reveals that in 2019 the Council's contractor Amey used 3,451.5 litres of products which contain the active ingredient Glyphosate.

Glyphosate kills weeds and invasive species and is the main ingredient in brands like Roundup. Studies have shown that the substance also kills beneficial insects and reduces biodiversity.

In this time of global pandemic I find it very strange that the Council are prioritising killing dandelions

Environmental campaigner Graham Wroe told Now Then that he had recently seen workers spraying Glyphosate without the recommended protective equipment.

"In this time of global pandemic I find it very strange that the Council are prioritising killing dandelions," he said. "But to do this without protecting the workforce is quite extraordinary."

In August last year, Cabinet Member for Culture, Parks and Leisure Mary Lea told Now Then that Sheffield Council "hope to replace or significantly reduce [Glyphosate usage] in the near future."

A petition calling on Sheffield Council to stop using Glyphosate, as local authorities in Hammersmith & Fulham and Glastonbury have done, has been signed by over 5,000 people.

Countries including the Netherlands, France and Austria have also banned or restricted its use.

A previous FOI request submitted by Wroe found that Amey used 1,750 litres of Glyphosate in 2018, but the Council said that this figure did not include Amey's sub-contractors, whereas the 2019 figure does.

They have made it impossible to compare the figures, so we don't know if the Glyphosate use is going up or down

"They have made it impossible to compare the figures, so we don't know if the Glyphosate use is going up or down," said Wroe. "I suspect it is increasing."

The Council declined to provide a comment for this piece, but pointed us to a statement made by Cllr Lea in February.

The Cabinet Member said that the Council were working with other local authorities to "find the best ways to reduce the use of Glyphosate," and that they would trial plant-based products as well as alternatives to weed spraying later this year.

Sam Gregory

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