Spraying weeds with synthetic chemicals could be a thing of the past in a few years if the Sunshine Coast Council has its way.
It is phasing out the use of controversial pesticide glyphosate – the active ingredient in Round Up – and introducing natural ways to control weeds, even though regulators from the State Government and CSIRO do not require them to.
Parks manager Mark Presswell says council is concerned that research has shown glyphosate is a health hazard and harmful to the environment
He says they have reduced usage of the chemical by 20 per cent in the last two years.
“We were using around 560 litres a year, we’re around the 400 mark now,” he said.
“We’ve had no advice from our government or from the CSIRO in regard to any potential problems with glyphosate, but we’re just being cautious and careful so we’re just trying to limit the use and eventually phase it out.”
Mr Presswell says council has taken it lead from a World Health Organisation report that states glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans.
This week France joined other countries like the Netherlands, Russia, Mexico and Sri Lanka in banning its sale from garden centres.
But an Australian toxicologist, Dr Ian Musgrave says glyphosate is a fairly non-toxic chemical to humans, and is ranked lower than alcoholic beverages and formaldehyde as carcinogens.
Mr Presswell says even though using Round Up is the most cost effective means of controlling weeds for council, his teams are phasing in more natural techniques.
“Some of those areas that traditionally had weeds we now mulch, compost mulch and plant plants in there,” he said.
“That way we get a much more attractive region and we also control weeds.”
Mr Presswell says council also endeavours to shade out weed growth with larger plants where possible.
“Planting out areas is our best form of control – shading weeds out,” he said.
“You could plant a wallum for instance, then handpick the weeds till they disappear.”
Mr Presswell says council has trialed another natural control technique using steam to kill weeds but it was too expensive and the weeds recovered too quickly.
He is unsure when the use of glyphosate by the council will be phased out completely.
“It will depend on how effective our natural control measures are; we want to phase it out as fast as possible,” he said.