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Green shoots for the successful management of forever chemicals OUTCO Grounds Maintenance

Green shoots for the successful management of forever chemicals

Anyone with an environmental conscience who wants to do the right thing will always faces challenges such as the conscious and ongoing use of herbicides, pesticides and weedkiller; or choosing between the adoption of eco and bio-friendly alternatives. There are no simple answers to these dilemmas, but it can only be useful to break down some of the specific issues and try to get at the facts.

Take chemicals, for example. While everything with “-cide” on the label raises eyebrows and environmental concerns, comparing the long-term impact of PFAS and microplastics to the action of, say, neonicotinoids (neonics) or herbicides such as glyphosate, reveals some important differences worth noting. To delve deeper into the detail, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a set of what’s known as “forever chemicals.” Unlike the temporary nature of a targeted herbicide, PFA contamination lingers and keeps polluting the environment. It’s the same with microplastics. Yet, public awareness is largely focused around substances like Roundup (Glyphosite) and neonics.

Forever Chemicals: They’re… Around Forever

When we consider the question of forever chemicals, you have to imagine a molecule so resilient, it permeates nearly every corner of modern life: nonstick pans greasing the weekend fry up to the umbrella protecting you from rain. PFAS are a vast family of over 4,700 unnatural man-made chemicals developed because of the drive towards profitable consumer products the 20th century, with remarkable water and grease-repellent properties, making them ubiquitous in countless everyday products today.

But that persistence and efficiency – the very characteristic that makes them so commercially attractive – is also their Achilles’ heel in the environmental arena and grounds maintenance. Unlike most pesticides, PFAS won’t degrade in the environment. They simply… stay. They contaminate soil, leach into water sources, and bioaccumulate in the food chain, potentially harming wildlife and, eventually, ourselves.

Forever chemicals refer to a class of approximately 10,000 fluorinated chemicals more formally known as poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)

Into The Waterways

Consider the River Thames, the lifeblood of London. Studies have revealed shocking levels of PFAs – exceeding safety limits by over 50 times in some areas. This isn’t an isolated incident. Rivers across the UK echo the same story, painting a picture of widespread pollution by forever chemicals. This presence poses a triple threat.

Public health is impacted –  studies suggest potential links between PFAS exposure and a range of health problems, including cancer, thyroid hormone disruption, and immune system suppression. Environmental health is under threat – any PFAS used in grounds maintenance disrupt ecosystems, impact biodiversity and jeopardise the highly delicate balance of aquatic life. Lastly, your business continuity can also be impacted – ignoring PFAS risks can lead to costly regulatory compliance issues, reputational damage, and even lawsuits.

We would argue that the time to prioritise commercial action on forever chemicals has come, and that’s where our focus should be. Sensible commercial solutions are needed to mitigate the PFA threat, protect public health, and ensure a sustainable future for both our environment and businesses alike. And it’s not just about the Thames – it’s about a shared recognition that some problems are bigger than others, and threaten a healthier, cleaner future for everyone on the planet.

Herbicides and Neonicotinoids

At this point it is also important to have a discussion about herbicides and neonicotinoids, two environmental grounds maintenance nasties that get tossed around a lot, but with some crucial differences. Neonicotinoids are the insecticides have been in the news recently, and have rightly faced their share of scrutiny, especially for their suspected role in bee decline. That’s why there are restrictions on their use in the UK, and campaigns calling for them to be banned altogether. But comparisons of these environmental tools with forever chemicals all miss the crucial point that these are targeted, short term measures.

Neonicotinoids are in fact highly specific. They target specific short term excesses – excesses created by ourselves by the unnatural spread and buildup of certain crop-eating insects due to mankind’s intensive farming methods. But such localised buildups also minimise the overall environmental impact, unlike PFAS which contaminate everything they touch and stay there forever.

They have a disappearing act: neonicotinoids don’t stick around forever unlike PFAS, which are the “forever chemical.” Moreover, strict regulations control how and when neonicotinoids get applied, adding another layer of protection. So, while neonicotinoids deserve scrutiny, it is bad science to put them in the same bracket as PFAS. Glyphosate, another environmental villain, falls into the same category. This weed killer can only work on specific parts of plants and only plants, leaving higher diversity lifeforms untouched. And just like neonicotinoids, Glyphosate vanishes without a trace.

Grounds Maintenance and The Environment

Context matters. Not all environmental concerns are created equal. By keeping the conversation nuanced, focusing on the real threats like PFAS that linger, instead of throwing every pesticide and herbicide under the same “bad for the planet” umbrella, we can make a difference and protect our environment effectively and intelligently.

Taking on the “forever foes” will require innovative solutions and intelligent, targeted actions. By prioritising nature, sustainability, and collaborating with policymakers and manufacturers, UK Companies can pave the way for a PFAS free future.

Environmental responsibility is not just a cost; it’s an investment in a healthier planet, resilient communities, and ultimately, a thriving business ecosystem.

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Invasive species are a formidable challenge, but with the right expertise and strategies, they can be managed effectively. Partnering with OUTCO ensures that your property remains healthy, beautiful, and free from the threat of weeds & invasive species

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