Ten years ago, I was on my favourite beach when I noticed, for the first time, all the plastic debris along the tideline: plastic bottles, lumps of melted plastic, bits of foam, nylon rope and plastic bags. I picked them up, stuffed them into my backpack and took them home.
Since that day I have continued to clean up ocean plastic debris I find on beaches near my home. With every year the amount of plastic we create and consume continues to grow, and more and more of it ends up in our seas and washed up on our beaches. Recently, I have been filling recycled glass jars with any debris that is small enough to fit.
The jars become akin to the specimen jars found in natural history museums. People love to hold them and peer into them, perhaps recognizing something, or asking me where I found certain items. In return I 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.
The project is called 100 Jars, because that was my goal when I began. I currently have over 200 jars filled with plastic debris. 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 patterns of consumption and our human social amnesia.