From far away, it almost looks as though the beach is covered in seafoam. But the white bands washing ashore in Tenerife, in Spain's Canary Islands, are in fact piles of tiny bits of plastic, the latest example of the human-made pollution impacting the world's oceans.

"I’ve never seen the beach like this,” said María Celma Argaluza, a 37-year-old teacher and founder of the Océano Limpio Tenerife (Clean Oceans Tenerife) campaign, in a video of the waste she posted on Facebook on March 24. “It makes me want to cry.”

Argaluza criticised the insufficient measures put in place to address the build-up of rubbish along the shores of the Canary Islands.

Because the islands act as a natural barrier to the Gulf Stream and the Canary Current, they become a dumping ground for rubbish floating in the Atlantic Ocean, May Gómez, a biology professor at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, told the Spanish daily newspaper El Pais.

"We want to raise awareness about this sad reality”

Argaluza told The Observers that the campaign encourages locals to help clean up rubbish they see on the islands' beaches.

We want to raise awareness about the sad reality of Tenerife’s beaches through photos and videos. It’s no longer enough to recycle. We need to ban single-use plastic.

Don’t wait for someone else to organise a beach clean-up. Each and every one of us can do something. There are lots of people who contribute to our movement and send us photos, and we are calling on the government and companies to act as well.

Argaluza added that she and other activists can collect around 30 kilograms of plastic during a beach clean-up. But microplastic, like the small bits that recently washed ashore, are even more harmful to the environment because they are not accepted by traditional recycling machines.