Quick, what do these things have in common: thousands of plastic bottles (a few from far-off lands including Vietnam, China and South Korea, but 99 percent Japanese), hundreds of empty fishing-line packages, dozens of golf balls, a tennis racquet (stringless), a giant sea turtle (dead), a big skate (dead), a small shark (dead), a medium-sized octopus (dead), a boom box (nonfunctioning) and an artificial vagina (used)?

If you guessed that these are all things that have washed up on the beach in front of my house over the past few years, you'd be correct.

Around three years ago, after a big typhoon, I went down to the beach just after dawn to see if anything interesting had washed up. On that day nothing too exciting had, but I noticed an extraordinary amount of broken glass, and decided to pick it up (coz, you know, the beach is nicer that way). I picked up 25 kg of broken glass that day, plus a half-dozen big bags of cans and bottles, and miscellaneous plastic.