I have been picking up ocean plastic debris for 10 years. And always the problem is, once I have picked up the debris, then what? To begin with I sorted and categorised and counted the debris on my dining room table - over 25,000 pieces of debris one year – before recycling what I could and throwing away the rest. Recently, I have been filling recycled glass jars with anything small enough to fit. At the last count, I had over 150 jars.
The jars become akin to the specimen jars found in natural history museums. People love to hold them and peer into them, perhaps recognising something, asking me where I found certain items. I get to tell them where I find shotgun cartridges and plastic tampon applicators. I get to talk about nurdles, the tiny discs of pre-production plastic that travel the world in container ships.
Ironically the jars are themselves are emblematic of the reason why we have the problem of ocean debris in the first place. The glass allows us to look but prevents us from touching, from getting our hands dirty. We may feel fascination and horror, but we are still caught in our human social amnesia.