Pest control sector trends

Man in brown work clothes holding pest control machine in front of silver van

(last updated July 2019)

What has been happening in the pest control sector?

There have been some significant developments within the pest control sector over the past twenty years or so, including:

  • a trend towards controlling pests without using pesticides. This is very much a current issue as many consumers are concerned about the harmful effects of pesticides and chemicals on the environment, on pets and on themselves, while some prefer to remove rather than eradicate certain pest species
  • increasing pressure on businesses to implement effective pest control measures, and tighter regulations governing pest control
  • fear of litigation. Businesses have become more susceptible to legal action for breach of legislation and having an effective pest control program in place demonstrates that they have observed due diligence, which can be used as a defence. For the pest control sector, this has meant that there has been a greater emphasis on proofing premises against infestation rather than dealing with existing problems
  • climate change. As the climate has become warmer, more exotic pests are able to survive in Britain and the sector has had to adapt to be able to deal with them

In 2012 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), as the UK competent body on pesticides, launched a consultation on measures to reduce the environmental risks posed by anti-coagulant rodenticides (rat poisons). Principles for a rodenticide stewardship scheme for the pest control industry were agreed in 2015 and form the basis of a self-regulatory regime managed by the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use. From June 2016 only certified trained users are able to purchase and use 'professional only' anti-coagulant rodenticides.

A report by the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU), published on the National Pest Technicians Association (NPTA) website, highlighted the dangers to wildlife of the routine practice of permanent baiting with rodenticides. Their research showed that small mammals fed on the bait and were then eaten by a wide range of predatory birds and mammals. While accepting that there was a place for permanent baiting, particularly indoors, they recommended that permanent baiting should no longer be applied as a routine practice in rodent pest management and that anyone using permanent baiting should do so only if the risks are justified by a continuing threat to human or animal health and hygiene.

As of the end of November 2015 anyone using professional pesticide products must have a 'specified certificate' (a certificate of competence) to demonstrate that they are competent to use them safely and appropriately.

2015 also saw new EU rules come into force requiring all biocidal products placed on the market to be listed on the 'Article 95 list' (stocks of unlisted products supplied before that date can however be used up). This led to some products being withdrawn from the market. Despite the vote in June 2016 to leave the EU, all existing EU regulations continue to apply until the date of leaving. It is not yet known what the position will be after the UK has left the EU but it appears likely that many of the existing EU regulations will continue to apply and the UK may even agree to apply new EU regulations to remain in line with the remaining member states.

According to the British Pest Control Association (BPCA), the future for the pest control sector in the UK is likely to bring:

  • consumer demand for greater professionalism from pest control operatives. This will mean a need for higher levels of training and understanding of the problems faced
  • continuing emphasis away from pest control towards pest management, such as pest proofing of premises and so on
  • fewer but more precisely targeted pesticides
  • increased demand as public awareness of pest problems (for example dust mites) grows
  • greater price competition

Tough economic conditions and funding cuts during the late 2000s and early 2010s saw a significant number of local authorities scale back or even cease providing pest control services (they are not under any obligation to treat householders' and businesses' pest problems, but they do have to ensure that property which they control is kept free of pests which could pose a threat to public health). This trend has had a negative impact on some businesses which rely heavily on public sector pest control work, but may have removed an important source of competition for other pest control specialists. The economy began to recover during the mid 2010s, but local authority finances remained under strong pressure. The economic recovery stalled towards the end of 2015 and the uncertainty following the Brexit vote in June 2016, which has continued while the negotiations over the terms of departure are ongoing, has meant that the economy has remained sluggish throughout 2016, 2017 and 2018. Consumers, businesses and local authorities have had to tighten their belts and restrict spending to necessities. Things are not expected to improve for the foreseeable future.

Keeping up to date with developments

Joining a trade association is an excellent way of staying up to date with developments in your industry. The UK pest control industry is represented by two main professional bodies:

  • the BPCA, which aims to promote high standards in the industry and offers training courses for its members
  • the NPTA, which promotes professionalism in the industry and publishes Today's Technician

To find out more about the member services offered by these organisations and to get contact details, visit their websites.

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