Halifax council stays on green course

Declines to permit use of FeHEDTA pesticide; extends recycling to most plastics.

Council has declined to declare war on this menace.
Council has declined to declare war on this menace.
Halifax council Tuesday stood firm on its environmental record, refusing to weaken the pesticide bylaw and extending the recycling program.

One of the first in Canada, the pesticide bylaw was adopted in the late 1990s. It bans pesticides generally, except for a prescribed list of allowable eco-friendly applications, and except by permit. But while admirable, the bylaw was easily ignored, as all the banned products were for sale at local garden supply stores.

Last year, however, the provincial government banned the sale of most pesticides; suddenly the city bylaw wasn’t so easily ignored. But the provincial ban didn’t exactly match up with the city bylaw: the province allows the sale of a relatively new pesticide called FeHEDTA, while the city bans it.

FeHEDTA is an iron-based product that attacks broad-leafed weeds like dandelions. Supporters say it is not directly toxic to humans, as are traditional pesticides; detractors point out that increased levels of lead in the watershed threatens the ecosystem generally. Saying that the purpose of the bylaw was to protect human health, city staff recommended weakening the bylaw to allow the use of FeHEDTA, which would put the city and provincial bans in synch.

But council rejected that argument, and FeHEDTA remains banned. Still, like traditional pesticides in previous years, FeHEDTA will presumably remain for sale in garden stores, and scofflaws will continue to use it.

On the recycling front, the city’s once-celebrated waste diversion program has been surpassed by more inclusive programs in other cities, famously even by Yarmouth, which recycles more kinds of plastic than does Halifax. But council voted to extend the Halifax program to all kinds of plastic except styrofoam. The expanded collection system will start in September.

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