Getting the problem around your head

Palmyra doctor Maryellen Yencken and Jaslyn Schipper were eager volunteers for Saltwater Cleanups’ photographer/co-ordinator Isaac Cable and founder Will Selwood. Photo by Steve Grant

WHEN Will Selwood helps clear the litter from one of Perth’s beaches, he does it with a special insight into the trauma it can cause marine life.

“I actually had a surfing accident at Port Beach a couple of years ago,” Mr Selwood told the Herald this week during a clean-up at Bathers Beach.

“I had a bait bag over my head and was kind of suffocating after a duck dive, so I kind of came up after that and was in shock.”

The incident, along with a spell helping to tag turtles on Barrow Island, inspired a change in his life, and the laid-back surfer decided to set up the not-for-profit charity Saltwater Cleanups.

“Saltwater Cleanups is dedicated to organising community beach cleanups to rid the coastline and beaches of marine debris,” he said.

“We’ve been going for almost two years now coming up to March.”

Sometimes it’s a lone activity, but his dedication is gathering a growing army of volunteers and Mr Selwood says so far there’s been no shortage of rubbish.

“Especially in some of the more popular beaches like Trigg and Secret Harbour. 

“We found, I think, 94 kilos at Trigg; that was probably our biggest one, and it was only one hour and 44 volunteers.

Backyard factory

“Normally after each cleanup I bring all the rubbish home and sort it, count it and weigh it, and kind of turn mum’s backyard into a small factory.”

Mr Selwood plans to monitor the beaches over the years to see how they’re fairing with the rubbish, but they’ve already seen some results from the McGowan government’s ban on single-use plastics like cups and straws.

“We’re definitely seeing a few less straws coming in and obviously those Coles plastic bags,” he said.

“But we’re still finding those reusable Coles bags and we’re still finding that bamboo cutlery and wooden cutlery as well.

“And we’re still getting lots of soft plastics; that’s probably the biggest thing by far.”

Mr Selwood says last November’s collapse of soft plastic recycler Redcycle had been a huge issue.

Last Friday he spoke at the opening Blue Yarns session during the successful launch of the inaugural OceanLife Festival and says the response was encouraging.

“So I didn’t have a speech when I went up there; I just had my slides and sort of spit it outfrom my heart and telling my ocean story,” he said.

The OceanLife Festival wraps up this weekend with three days of the Fremantle Underwater Film Festival, which features an even mix of films from overseas producers and WA talent.

For more information head to or and book tickets through Eventbrite by searching OceanLife Festival.


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