SALFORD council officers have defended the town hall’s use of controversial weed-killer glyphosate, but said they are searching for alternatives as they attempt to phase out the chemical.

Local authorities across the UK have faced scrutiny for their use of the pesticide since it was described as a ‘probably carcinogenic’ by an international health body and high-profile US court cases which have seen individuals link the chemical to their cancer.

Salford council officers are looking at alternatives to glyphosate, but said that what’s currently available on the market is either too expensive or ineffective.

While the chemical is legal in the UK and is approved by the EU, court cases and a growing public concern around the pesticide had put town halls in ‘difficult moral positions,’ a Salford council officer has said.

Greenspace officer Annie Surtees told yesterday’s neighbourhood scrutiny meeting that other solutions that the council have considered – including thermal, mechanical and design alternatives – have proven either too costly or ineffective.

Much of the concern around glyphosate has focused around a finding from the International Agency on the Research of Cancer – an arm of the World Health Organisation – which classified glyphosate as a ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’. 

Recent court rulings in the US have also seen individuals successfully argue that their cancer is linked to weedkillers containing glyphosate.

But Ms Surtees said that regulations are much tighter in the EU, where the use of glyphosate has been approved by EU agencies until December 2022.

In the US, the chemical is used much more extensively, she said.

Nevertheless, she said that the council wants to move away from glyphosate, which she estimated is currently used in 50 percent of the council’s weedkilling plan.

She said: “It’s hard to see us being able to not use chemicals in the very near future but it’s something we’d want to work to as fast as we can.”

Another council officer pointed out Salford’s good practice in green space management, saying that seven of the city’s parks have been awarded with high achievement benchmark  ‘Green Flag’ status.

While the council continues to search for alternatives, they are keeping an eye out on more creative ways of killing weeds.

But, Ms Surtees said, Salford definitely won’t be following in the footsteps of one council.

“Bristol tried vinegar which is very smelly and didn’t work.”