EU Sustainable Use Directive sparks standards fear

Industry leaders say operator certification is crucial for effective pesticide-spraying programmes.

Increased weed control costs could spark staff cuts - image: Nomix
Increased weed control costs could spark staff cuts - image: Nomix

The EU Sustainable Use Directive (SUD) becomes UK law in November but questions remain about its potential impact across amenity horticulture.

The legislation, which was adopted by the EU in 2010, aims to reduce the risk of pesticide-use on human health and the environment by setting quality assurance standards and best practice.

Under the directive each country is required to set out a national action plan with targets, timetables and indicators for minimising the impact of pesticides.

Amenity sector leaders have already voiced concerns that the text of the directive could undermine existing professional standards of training and certification in the UK (HW, 25 March). The current wording only requires sprayer operators to have access to training rather than stating that they must be certified by law.

BALI technical director Neil Huck concurred that this would be a "retrograde" step for the sector and emphasised that the wording must be changed before the directive is implemented.

While he agreed that the legislation was a positive step, he argued that it would have negative repercussions on the landscaping industry. "It will reduce the availability of products to work with and staff trained to use new products," he said.

He also warned that landscapers and contractors could lose work if local authorities perceived weed control to be unmanageable using less effective pesticides. "If they see a large increase in vegetation management cost, councils will simply stop doing it or do it less frequently and cut landscaper, contractor and parks department staff. They don't have the money to pay for the maintenance it will require," he said.

Sports turf providers would also be hit by the banning of fungicides and worm control, he added.

However, technical officer of safer, stronger, greener at Calderdale Council Mark Dempsey said the directive would have no effect on his department as the team was already working to the new standards.

He continued: "I'm sure that there are organisations that aren't aware of the wider implications. By not having an effective weed management programme, they will save now but pay more in the long term.

"People need to get up to date with SUD, have internal briefings and make sure that all staff hold the relevant certificates."

KEY REQUIREMENTS

- Training and certificates for distributors, advisers and professional users of pesticides.

- Ensure use of least-hazardous products and promote efficient application techniques.

- Protect aquatic environment and drinking water supplies, public spaces and conservation zones.

- Regular inspection of pesticide sprayers.

- Promote integrated vegetation management.


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