After pruning cacti, I am left with many fallen pieces on the ground which, depending on the cactus type, have varying degrees of difficulty in picking up and disposing of. Is there a standard tool that is recommended for this type of work? I am told 'tongs' are often of us, but I'm not sure what type of tongs to purchase. So far I have been jabbing them with a sharp tool, and using that, but depending on the size of the cactus piece, that has limited use.
After several months of experimentation, here is what I have found:
Gloves are helpful to avoid small, hair-like spines that occur in clusters on some types of cacti such as prickly-pear, but are of little use against larger spines on cacti such as Saguaro. These little spines do tend to stick to the gloves, however, making the outside of them hazardous for storage and contact with skin, so I advise avoiding them.
Hardware stores sell pinch-style pick-up tools that are sometimes used for picking up garbage. These are useful for picking up fallen pieces of cacti after pruning or after storm damage. While they can't be used to pick up larger pieces, they can be used to grip and drag a fallen cacti segment.
Most cacti readily cling to a piece of cloth if you attempt to wrap it around them, which can then be used to carry them to compost or trash.
For small pieces or pieces I want to keep, I use tongs. Like kitchen tongs. I found some with silicone ends on them so they grip better and are a little easier on the plants.
For larger pieces that I don't want to keep, I have a four-tine cultivator. Think a hoe with four sharp tines instead of the blade. I was using mine yesterday to pick up chunks of prickly pear I chopped off a couple of weeks ago.
For repotting or more intimate handling I use my bare hands and grab the cactus where the body and roots meet. If it's a big plant I use extra-large tweezers to hold the plant. I generally don't deal with Opuntias and their glochids.