Less use of pesticides in municipalities is possible

Conference: Variety of methods for environmentally safe weed or pest control is already available.

Löwenzahn und anderes Unkraut in Ritzen von Treppenstufen einer SteintreppeClick to enlarge
Wild plants are not welcome everywhere.
Source: Ruud Morijn / Fotolia.com

Landscape planning and pest control are among the many tasks which municipalities are charged with in their mandate to protect citizens and maintain infrastructure. It often requires the use of plant protection agents and biocides. A specialist conference hosted by the German Environment Agency (UBA) on 9 - 10 September in Dessau-Roßlau will show that alternative methods such as hot water treatment or intelligent trap systems are already making it possible to do without chemicals that are harmful to the environment. President Maria Krautzberger of UBA said: “Pesticides can enter the environment along many different pathways and are thus a hazard not only for ecosystems but also for human health, which has been proven by the pesticide residues regularly traced in surface and groundwater. The public sector has a special example to set when it comes to environmentally friendly and green land management and the sustainable upkeep of its infrastructure. Our conference will show that municipalities can do without the use of plant protection agents, can limit the use of biocides and support alternative methods without being in neglect of their duties."

The aim of the joint conference of the German Environment Agency (UBA ) and BUND/Friends of the Earth Germany is to inform other municipalities about the risks and impact of chemical plant protection, or biocide use, and to demonstrate ways in which to forego the use of pesticides in future. The conference programme includes presentations and workshops and will also host the information booths of some producers of alternative methods of weeding and rodent control and their tools.

Municipal land space is becoming increasingly important because the quality of agriculture land as habitat for many species of animals and plants (e.g. wild pollinating insects, birds, typical field weeds) has been decimated dramatically. "Many cities and local authorities have taken an interest in reducing the use of pesticides on public land or doing without pesticides altogether. This initiative also reflects the will of many citizens and promotes the protection of insects and reduces pollution", says Detlef Raphael, an official from the Association of German Cities and Towns and also patron of the conference.

Green spaces which are accessible year-round as habitat for insects are particularly important since they have become so rare on spaces where intensive agriculture occurs. This is why the conference prioritized discussion of issues concerning municipal land used for agriculture and the rules governing lease agreements. Early planning in management and the appropriate selection of plant types of green areas can help to reduce the use of pesticides. When combined with the use of alternative weed control methods, municipal land areas can make a meaningful contribution to the conservation of biodiversity. Some alternative techniques such as the use of brushes or thermic procedures using hot water were presented.

It is not always necessary to use biocides to protect human health or materials. Many applications in municipalities can already do with less use of biocides. There is great potential in the use of smart trap systems and trap protection stations to monitor and control rat infestation in sewer systems, which will also be presented at the conference.

Municipalities nevertheless face the challenge of considering alternatives when it comes to tenders for services and the procurement of biocide-free alternatives. An ongoing research project by UBA focuses on how to promote the procurement of biocide-free alternatives for the sake of man and the environment.