The Northern Agricultural Region boasts some of Australia’s most pristine coastlines from the popular surf breaks around Kalbarri down to the rocky edges of Guilderton. Our coast is home to several ecosystems and a diverse range of sea life. But pollution poses a threat of damage that cannot be undone and these precious shores don’t clean themselves.
Neva Glass moved to Geraldton with her family in 1950 where she discovered her love for the ocean through many family trips around the Greenough Rivermouth. From a young age, Neva was involved in a system of collecting discarded bottles and returning them to the ‘bottle-o’ in an exchange for money to buy a family canoe. Neva said this was what sowed the seed for her to keep her local beaches clean.
“I always had a desire to do something physical but as I became aware of the increasing amount and varying types of debris, I decided to become a bit more focused in researching the debris’ origins,” said Mrs Glass.
During Neva’s quest to clean up Geraldton’s town beaches, she found that about 90% of all the small plastics she collected in the CBD had been flushed out from storm water drain outlets in front of the Dome Café. Most of the litter Neva has come across are discarded fishing by products such as broken pot buoys, polystyrene, broken cray pots, rope and twine.
However during summer, the most prominent objects stem from the fast food industry – plastic straws, drink bottles, milk shake cups, food containers and straw covers.
“Some days I would struggle to carry four plastic shopping bags full and at one point I had almost a whole trailer load full,” Mrs Glass said.
Although Neva focuses mainly on Geraldton coastlines these days, she and her family have travelled to many corners of the globe and have taken their passion for the environment with them everywhere they go.
Neva says that while touring America with her husband, son and daughter in law, they were inspired by the efforts of local high schools and community groups who would adopt highways and keep them clean.
“I was reminded of that, as near the end of a Nullarbor motorbike ride my husband and I undertook, we encountered a very clean roadside verge for quite some distance and even saw a group actively cleaning their adopted highway,” Mrs Glass recalled.
At present, Neva resides in Geraldton with her husband while her children are in Perth and Adelaide with children of their own, all of whom take after Neva and her love for the environment.
“They are all supportive and appreciative of what I do and why, and I think they are all environmentalists at heart.”
When it comes to passing the duty onto the next generation, Neva says she still has many more years of beach combing ahead of her.
“I will keep doing what I do whilst I am still able to, both physically and mentally.”