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Pesticide Free Towns

Moving towards pesticide-free public areas is an important step towards a safer environment for citizens and our health.

More and more Member States and municipalities around Europe are taking action to ban the use of pesticides in public areas including cemeteries, pavements, parks, schools, kinder gardens, sport fields and railways. This important public health measure to protect vulnerable groups is a provision that HEAL and its member PAN Europe were instrumental in achieving in the EU Directive on sustainable use of pesticides in 2009 (Directive EU/128/2009), through our Sick of Pesticides campaign and advocacy work over the last years.

Recently on 29 October 2015, PAN Europe together with BirdLife International, EEB and Greenpeace wrote to the Director General for Health and Food Safety, to express concern about a delayed publication of the report on the implementation of the EU Directive on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides (SUD) that the EU Commission was due to submit to the EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers on 26 November 2014. The letter is available here

Voices on Pesticides
PAN Europe has developed a web page (right) with an overview of the current situation to help ensure a successful implementation of this important law. Moving towards banning pesticides in public areas is an important trigger that can help the needed change towards the development of more sustainable and green towns, as well as towards low input agriculture.

Stopping the use of pesticides in public areas means that workers need to get used to other working methods and the public will need to be more accepting of weeds in public places. Furthermore, changes in the design of parks or cemeteries, for example, will be necessary to eliminate pesticide use.

Belgium moving towards pesticide free towns

Earlier this year on the first day of National Organic Week (8 June), PAN-Europe, together with several Belgian NGOs, (Velt, Inter-Environment Bruxelles, Greenpeace, Natagora, Adalia, Gestion Differenciée, and Apis Bruoc Sella) and ICLEI (local governments for sustainability) organised a conference on the use of pesticides in public space: « Belgium moving towards pesticide free towns ».

While the main aim of this conference was to encourage exchange between local municipalities from Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels regions, it also ensured a dialogue and exchange involving NGOs and citizens. The participants heard presentations by representatives from the three Belgian regions and also experiences from other countries, where 0 pesticide in public space is gaining ground.

In France, for example, the city of Rennes has been free of pesticides since 2000 and new legal provisions have been adopted to prohibit the use of pesticides with health risks in public places.

More recently legal provisions to restrict the use of pesticides in agricultural areas close to public areas have also been adopted. In the Netherlands, the law will soon be amended to include prohibitions to use pesticides in specific situations. In Italy, the town of Malles Venosta organised a referendum and as a result became pesticide free.

The conference was an opportunity to debate on important topics such as:

- How to manage invasive plants?
- How to inform the public about the toxicity of pesticides and convince them that it is necessary to change their habits?
- What techniques can be used to keep cemeteries clean using alternatives to herbicides?

To conclude, it is clear that there is the need for more communication between the various actors who are linked to public areas maintenance.

More information on the conference including presentations, videos, interviews of participants are available here

Last updated on 19 November 2015

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »


HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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