Zhao Zhong can determine any type of plastic simply by touching it.

This extraordinary skill earned him the nickname “plastic whisperer” when he was sorting through plastic and other household trash in Ha Long City, Vietnam, last month to help us curb the tsunami of plastic trash choking our oceans.

Zhao Zhong, a veteran of China’s environmental movement, and our marine campaigner Nicole Portley were joined by a dozen women from a local women’s union and several NGO and tourism company partners.

For seven days, the team woke up around 6:30 am, collected the prior day’s waste from 60 households, sorted it into several dozen categories, measured its weight and volume, and identified the brands that contributed the largest amount of plastic trash.

Zhao Zhong said he sorted through food waste and soiled diapers because he wants “to save the ocean for future generations and give them a chance to enjoy nature as I do today, through diving, swimming, rafting, and wildlife watching.”