Like many home owners, Josie Jones has a double garage packed with junk. But it’s not her own.
The waste avalanche – all 200 kilograms of it – is the result of 80 hours spent emu-bobbing after other people up and down beaches.
“I was so busy picking it up, I hadn’t thought about how much I’d actually picked up,” she told The New Daily.
And if you thought 200 kilograms sounds like a lot, then you’d be knocked back by the 5.6 tonnes Ms Jones has single-handedly picked up over the past five years.
“It took me 221 days to collect the first tonne,” she said.
A freelance designer, Ms Jones has created a two-square-metre map of Australia using 15 kilograms of the rubbish.
It now serves as a reminder of the pollution crisis plaguing our oceans – and has been so impactful it’s displayed at an exhibition by National Geographic at Melbourne Zoo.
“We do things through ignorance or education,” she said.
“If you’re not educated to understand that burying a nappy in the sand at the beach isn’t cool, you’re going to bury a nappy in the sand at the beach.”
Ms Jones has, collectively, spent more than 10,000 hours ridding Victoria’s beaches of everything from plastic bottles and straws to cigarette butts and unidentified objects.
She’s one of the local heroes The New Daily will celebrate this week in the lead up to the unveiling of the Australia Day honours list and award winners.
To think about the effect that rubbish would have had on marine life had it not been removed is just “horrendous”, she said.
“All these creatures are living without any care from us.”
Ms Jones has been waking before sunrise every morning since 2011 and heading down to the Mornington Peninsula, where she picks up rubbish washed up on the foreshore.
The 47-year-old doesn’t stop there.
“I don’t just pick up litter from where I live. Once I can see it’s clean where I am, I then go to other beaches,” Ms Jones said.
“Then I have to sort it and count it so that it goes into the Australian Marine Debris Database. Then that data is used to influence policy.”
Ms Jones launched The Only Butt campaign, which encourages smokers to properly dispose of cigarette butts – the most littered item on the planet.
“They use their butt as a statement, saying these are the only type of butts we want to see in our ocean, on our beaches, in our workplace, on our peers.”
Ms Jones was awarded the title of Victoria’s Local Hero, placing her in the running for the national honour to be announced on January 25.