Towns and villages go pesticide-free


Many readers will be very pleased to hear that since the new year local authorities have had to stop using chemicals on public spaces, roads and paths, and from 2019 private householders will have to do the same. 

Even before the law change, 4,000 communes had re-thought how they looked after their public spaces, with many turning to gas burners to get rid of weeds, and traditional methods such as salt and vinegar on paths.

The city of Lyon has been pesticide free since 2008 for its 300 parks and gardens covering 430 hectares open to the public, and now has much greater biodiversity in return and the system pays for itself.

Its 230 garden staff complained at the work load when the plan to phase out chemical products was announced in 2002, but their complaints soon faded once they were reminded of the serious health warnings on the products they had been using.

Lyon transformed its green spaces with the help of thousands of ladybirds brought in to eat aphids and other bugs and by using mulch to stop weeds on the soil, beer traps to cut down on slugs and natural compost from its garden waste.

Before 2004 it spent €30,000 a year on chemicals and pesticides and also spent money transporting 3,500 tonnes of leaves and grass clippings by lorry to a company that turned it into compost. Now the city has bought its own garden shredders and created 3,000m2 of composting area.

It also has greater biodiversity with the return of butterflies, bees and birds to the Roseraie du Parc de la Tête d’Or rose garden and even a rare orchid. It has also increased its green spaces by 10% since going ‘green’.

The pesticide ban is part of a wider environmental law change that includes a ban on throwaway plastic bags for fruit and veg and, from 2020, a ban on plastic cups, plates and utensils. The turn of the year also marked the creation of the Agence Française pour la Diodiversité, headed by French Canadian astrophysicist Hubert Reeves, which aims to preserve endangered species.