Townsville City Council is using a cutting-edge approach based on circular economy principles to turn the table on waterway weeds.
Unwanted species of aquatic weeds can choke creeks and wetlands and reduce the oxygen and other natural resources available for native plants, fish, and animals.
Waterway weeds feed on nutrients that enter our waters — such as nitrogen and phosphorous — nutrients that are often washed into water with everyday garden fertilisers, grass clippings, and animal waste.
Now, thanks to innovative thinking by Townsville City Council and partners Atlas Soils, Townsville is getting one-up on waterway weeds.
In select sites across the region, Council staff and partners are removing aquatic weeds and turning them into a powerful natural soil supplement. Weeds are removed from select waterways and treated with naturally occurring microbes to reduce odours and minimise overgrowth of unhelpful bacteria.
Stockpiled weeds are then dried, treated, and turned into nature-friendly mulch and soil, which is re-used in projects across the city, saving costs for Council, reducing spend on soils for Council projects, and nourishing vegetation with materials that mean sites will require less watering to take hold — wins all round.
The aquatic weeks-to-soils project complements Council’s terrestrial weeds-to-soils initiatives, which sees creekside weeds recycled into mulch, a stable and beneficial product for enhancing on-site soils. The Bohle Wetlands is one site where this weeds-to-soils scheme is in play. Previously, weeds removed were trucked to waste recycling facilities, where materials could end up landfill at a cost.
According to Council, of the more than 150 tonnes of weeds removed this year, zero organic waste has gone to landfill.
“The work going on with weeds-to-soils in Townsville is something we should all be very proud of,” says our Executive Officer, Kara-Mae Coulter-Atkins. “Townsville makes weeding look sexy.”
All eyes on circular economy initiatives
All of Australia’s environment ministers have agreed to work with the private sector to design out waste and pollution, keep materials in use, and foster markets to achieve a circular economy by 2030.
In May 2023 a Circular Economy Ministerial Advisory Group was established to advise government on opportunities, challenges, and actions to develop Australia’s circular economy, and to identify best practice-initiatives that show promise for adoption and/or expansion across Australia.