Cities across the globe are looking to Australia for a simple pollution solution to stop rubbish from spoiling creeks and river systems.
The City of Kwinana, south of Perth, has generated international interest for its drain socks.
In March 2018, nets were fitted to the mouths of two local stormwater drains to trap litter and debris that washed into the system after a rain storm.
Kwinana Mayor Carol Adams said more than 25 million people had since interacted with a single picture of the drain sock in action that the council posted on social media.
“We’re still getting up to five telephone enquiries or email enquiries globally a week from Austin, Texas to the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Zambia and New Zealand,” she said.
“We’ve had calls from Chile, Brazil, Portugal, many European countries — I’ve even been on a Canadian weather station interview.
Keeping it simple
“Here we are, a city of 42,000 residents who had this really great idea that wasn’t very costly, and we’ve had this amazing response to it.”
Ms Adams said the drain socks meant the city now spent less money manually clearing rubbish out of its creek system.
“I think some of the best ideas come from just the easiest and most simple concepts,” she said.
“I think it was the fact that you have a drain and you put a rope net over it and you can physically see the rubbish, the leaves and the debris that was coming out of that drain.
“People connected and thought, ‘I wonder whether that could be used in our city or town’ to fix up some of the issues that they have in their own native reserves.”
Ms Adams said the litter collected was disposed of and the green matter was recycled.
“We have a team that comes in to clean the drains and we pick the sock up, dry [the rubbish], sort it and then mulch it.
“It’s a whole recycling process of the debris captured by these nets.
“Last winter, the maintenance crew took away 370 kilograms of debris and rubbish that would have gone into bushland reserves.”
Turning rubbish into roads
Meanwhile, the neighbouring City of Cockburn has become the first West Australian council to build a new road out of recycled plastic.
About 40,000 single-use plastic bags collected by supermarkets across Australia were melted into an asphalt mix used to pave a laneway in Port Coogee.
“They’re the plastic bags you would get from the supermarket, or any old soft plastics that you may have had from chip packets or bread bags,” said the city’s waste education officer, Nicki Ledger.
“One of our plans for next year is to trial it on a much bigger road — about a hundred times bigger than this laneway.”
The asphalt mix also included 900 printer toner cartridges, 210kg of crumb rubber from car tyres and seven tonnes of recycled asphalt pavement. The product, created by Australian company Downer, was first used in a similar trial in Melbourne last year.
“It’s actually about diverting waste from landfill,” said Downer’s WA manager, Phil Strapp. “We’ve done a lot of the trials on the east coast, this is really just validating it for the Western Australian environment
“You want to look at its durability, its longevity and its workability in the local environment.”
Another Perth council, the City of Canning, this week used a slightly different asphalt mix which included 58,000 plastic bottles and 37,500 glass beer stubbies to pave a road in Willetton.
Ms Adams said the international interest in Australian environmental innovations was strong.
“It’s showing people around the world are worried about their own backyard,” she said.
“They want to know about how they clean up their backyard and how they can engage with their local councils about it.”