With groups amounting to one-tenth of the island’s 90,000 residents arriving by boat on peak days, those remnants quickly piled up. Half a million people are estimated to have crossed through Lesbos alone in 2015.
For the first few months of the migrant crisis, Ntinos didn’t come to the coast of Lesbos. He had work to do and mouths to feed. Plus, driving to the coast takes at least an hour from his community in the center of the small Greek island. The world’s media and governments monitored the macro realities of the influx—how many refugees, from where, with what goals for settlement. But others zoomed in on the micro level: discarded items scattered along the coast after migrants moved on, a valuable resource hiding in plain sight.