The change of the year saw the start of a new decade. Where might UK pest control go in the next ten years? What are the biggest challenges facing the industry? Pest took this opportunity and asked a variety of industry leaders to put forward their views.
Not everyone we approached replied, but by reading the comments submitted, a relatively limited number of issues rose to the fore.
After you have read these quotes, what do you, our readers of Pestthink? What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the profitable and effective running of your operation? Let us know your views – email the editor – click here.
“The next decade will see key developments in the regulatory field which will change the shape of pesticide product availability and use patterns for the pest control industry. Though some products will continue to disappear, it will also stimulate innovation, bringing forward new products and techniques for pest control technicians. Rather than a specific event, this will be an ongoing process throughout the decade.”
“Undoubtedly the main issue facing the UK pest controller in this new decade is the reduction, and/or increasing restriction in use, of the range of products and techniques available to us. This is my 21st year in pest control and the options available to pest controllers today are very different to those that I had available to me when I first picked up my National Pest Control van with 130,000 miles on the clock.”
The way in which pest control products are used in the UK will undoubtedly change in the next decade. Certainly in the UK food production sector there is a call to action to minimise the presence of pesticide residues in food products. Legislation is increasingly becoming a driver for this change, but we are also recognising that there is growing consumer pressure on retailers, suppliers and manufacturers to provide residue free pest control solutions. By focusing on a move towards zero residue, the industry could revolutionise the way in which it manages the protection of products into the future.
“I think that the number of products available to pest controllers will continue to decline throughout the decade and that pest controllers will need to rely on greater ingenuity, combining the use of the remaining arsenal of products with physical control techniques and environment management. Pest controllers will need to raise their professionalism to increasingly higher levels.
Maybe this will be the decade when some form of certification becomes a reality, at least for the use of some pesticides. Constraints on the use of pesticides as a result of concerns over secondary poisoning issues are likely to increase.
“Our industry is already feeling the effects from the reduction in end-user products via the biocide directive, the reduction of new actives/formulations and market forces for a ‘greener’ pest control service. The first half of the next decade will see the extensive use of proactive pesticides dramatically reduced with more novel and innovative non-pesticide solutions developed.
Therefore, pest control strategy will become the single most important element for our clients. Co-ordination of activities between client actions (issued by pest controllers) and pest control works will be far more important than ever before. We must develop our communication to clients on actions required and more importantly manage those actions through.
Information technology, live data via GPS, customer portals, robust simple and effective management processes play a huge part in the development of our industry. To effectively implement a service to meet these challenging requirements requires a huge amount of training and development work for technicians and first line management. Interesting times ahead?”
“In any pest control servicing job, the cost of the labour makes-up a high proportion of the total cost of the job. Increasingly technological innovations will be available to monitor when pests are active. This will allow the technician to respond when activity is reported, rather than simply visiting a bait station or rodent box purely because is it part of the routine, six-weekly service route. The technician of tomorrow will be much more of a specialist – an outdoor expert on rodents, or an indoor expert working within a food factory, for example.”
“I think that climate change poses the greatest threat to us all, not just the industry. In particular, how we adapt and increase our resilience. This occurs at a time when whatever colour of government is in force, there will be difficult decisions on public (health) expenditure. The general public will demand the same level of pest management, but without the means to pay for it. Yet, we will also have emerging diseases and different pests, and changes to the distribution of them, to deal with. At the very basic level more sewer flooding will also mean more surface rat infestations. I am sure the rats will adapt to climate change better than we will!
Local authorities will be even more hard-pressed to keep a well trained pest management work force when there is no requirement to do so. Will that mean more opportunities for servicing companies? I suspect it will mean more DiY attempts at control with misuses of biocides and indeed with a potential for the mis-selling of professional-only use products. In any event it will become more competitive for smaller servicing companies.”
“The pest control industry is changing. As local authorities disband their pest control departments, there will be more opportunities for smaller pest controllers to gain business in their local areas based on high quality and committed service. However, there will be a greater temptation for unqualified people to enter the industry, thinking that pest control is easy. It isn’t.
As public sector pest control is reduced, there will be a significant reduction in the protection of the public from public health pests. When pest control is outsourced by local authorities, it will never be as effective as a local authority service. This is not because local authorities are better than private companies, it is because local authorities can often carry out pest control as a community service whereas private companies can only afford to do the work if being paid.”
“Regarding the current debate concerning a change of training requirements, everyone must remember that pest control is a practical job and not one based solely in the classroom. An immediate return to practical training, coupled with the theory is an essential ”must have”. Certainly not in the next decade, but by the end of this year!
Changes in legislation remain a threat. Bearing in mind the way control has been transferred to the EU for many matters (including food safety, military control and immigration) we must all watch our backs regarding theoretical pest control from Europe – we don”t ever want that straight banana! However, the American way for every pest controller being certified before being allowed to practice in the UK is a real target Goodbye cowboys.
Whilst our sewer system is now in the hands of private ownership, we are unable to turn the clock back, but everyone should insist a bigger proportion of the profits made are ploughed back. The old and worm-out sewers under all of our towns and cities should be replaced, along with a return to the routine of public sewer rat treatments. Everyone should remember that when dealing with public health ‘prevention is better, and cheaper, than the cure'”.
“In the heritage industry, the effect of climate change on pests could be one of the greatest challenges in the next 10 years. Increased temperatures means increases in pests, not only in numbers, but a gradual spread northwards of endemic pests and introduction and spread of new species. There are already probably more clothes moths now than at any time in our history and we have far fewer tools to combat them. If termites do get established in the UK, the risk to historic buildings will make everything else pale into insignificance.”
“The trend towards increased public access to land and the encouragement of rural recreation are likely bring the activities of wildlife managers in such locations under greater scrutiny. This puts pressure on all of us to ensure that the measures we employ are legal, sensitively used and seek to avoid unnecessary criticism or adverse publicity.
As we seek ways of reducing pesticide use (particularly rodenticides in out-door locations) whilst striving to improve the service that is provided, it is essential that clients, customers and others able to influence site management etc play their part in helping the technician or operator to achieve this. This requires significant changes in the thinking and part played by these other sectors who need to take a greater responsibility and role in future management and prevention of pests.”