My womblesque haul of beach treasures was quite impressive except for one big problem. Most of it consisted of horrible plastic waste.

I recently learned that there are people out there who beachcomb for a living. Now, that's what you call upcycling! These folks can quite literally go out and gather objects that are of absolutely no use nor ornament to either man or beast and then deftly turn them into something wonderfully artisan and desirable. I only wish I was that clever and imaginative.

Frankly, my beach wombling didn't yield much of anything that could ever realistically be considered remotely desirable or useful. Most of my haul of horrors was just a lot of harmful plastics. Fish destroying rubbish that us ''everyday folk'' have so carelessly ''left behind'' is a very long way from being in any way useful or desirable. But, it has provided me with a very rude awakening.

Let's briefly look at my ghastly haul of horrors:

A faded yellow ADDIS plastic bucket - minus its handle. An old Coke bottle sporting a faded Chinese label. Half a rubber football (which, I swear, I lost in 1973). A broken blue builder's helmet with a crab claw stuck in it. A five gallon plastic oil drum in Castrol GTX green - containing some kind of mystery gunge (which was obviously not examined but disposed of very carefully). I also found loads of polystyrene fast food containers.

I think you might already be getting the rather grim picture here?

Anyway as the late, great Sir Bruce Forsyth would have said. "Didn't he do well?" That's because I found all that nasty stuff in about 40 minutes flat. But unlike Brucey's haul of Generation Game goodies, my ensemble of abominations was utterly awful. Beyond disgusting.

The problem with plastic

We all know that marine plastic pollution is now a global issue. Basically, where there are lots of people, there's going to be a whole lot of plastic rubbish. And now, plastic rubbish rears its ugly head even in areas of the world where there are no people at all. Distant places such as the Mariana Trench or deep beneath the Arctic ice sheet.

According to a recent report, over 200,000 tonnes of plastic is 'leaked' into the Mediterranean alone EVERY year. LEAKED? Sorry, but 200,000 tonnes is hardly a leak? It's an actual, full-on deluge of monstrous rubbish. The term 'leak' is suggestive of something slow and perhaps even controllable. Far from it! 200,000 tonnes 'leaked' into the Mediterranean alone is actually frightening, shameful and ultimately even catastrophic.

Estimates denote that Egypt is one of the main sources of this silent Mediterranean calamity. But it comes from all countries that flank the Mediterranean. Thousands of tonnes of plastic rubbish flows down the mighty Nile from other African countries (as well as from Egypt itself) and it eventually ends up in the Mediterranean Sea. The figures are truly staggering. They demonstrate the sheer scale of this disaster. Worse still, the numbers seem to be escalating rather than dwindling which is an even more sobering thought.

This outrage has been going on for decades. I've always lived near the coast and I've noticed, for more than 25 years, the ever growing quantity of plastic rubbish being blown across the shingle and gathering on shorelines. Like the gradually boiled frog, people are now waking up to it. Let's just hope it's not too late.

Microplastics, massive issue

So far, I've only mentioned the stuff that's immediately visible. The biggest potential threat lies with the stuff that we can't so easily see. Microplastics.

The problem lies with the sheer quantity that now exists in the natural environment. Some estimate that the Mediterranean Sea has over a million tonnes of microplastics in and around its waters. That's serious.

Our use of plastics in everyday items and industrial processes has resulted in a vast deluge of very slow to degrade materials entering our environment and indeed our food chain. As plastics break down into minuscule particles (<5 mm diameter) the consequences for human, animal and ecosystem health are as yet unquantified. What is already known is that an increasing number of birds and marine species are ingesting this stuff, often with fatal consequences. Most plastics aren't soluble and therefore cannot be digested, so it ends up clogging up an animal's digestive system or harming them in other ways.

It's a case of small particles equalling enormous problems. Whilst microplastics are often less than 5mm in size, this stuff is creating huge concerns amidst the scientific community. Quite frankly, it should worry us all.

All this sounds completely bizarre when you think that microplastics originate from what outwardly seem like perfectly harmless items such as nylon clothing, dust from car tyres and general household rubbish. It even comes from personal care products which contain exfoliating nylon microbeads (now largely banned).

But we all know there's a problem, just like we all know about climate change. Again, the question is, what's REALLY being done about it? Right now, the answer in both instances is clearly not enough.

An everyday problem

Plastic pollution is visible to many of us each and every day. Whenever I transfer a haul of groceries from our shopping trolley into a car boot, all I hear is the constant rustle of single use plastic packaging. I honestly think we buy more plastic rubbish than we do edible produce in terms of actual volume.

Surely, this is a problem that largely lies with large scale producers, distributors and retailers? I realise these corporations are governed by 'supply and demand' so I'm not attempting to absolve myself of any personal accountability.

It must therefore be up to all of us, as consumers, to persuade the suppliers to package our goods in a way that drastically reduces the amount of plastic that's being produced and then discarded. We simply can't just go on like we have been.

Even recycling doesn't appear to be the absolute answer because quite often the problem is merely exported in bulk. A case of out of sight, out of mind. Trouble is, the problem doesn't simply just vanish. It eventually washes back up onto our own shores again one day - one way or another.

Whilst some of us may already be doing our utmost to reduce picking up single use plastics, it would seem that the plastic habit remains because of the way we're compelled to buy products. Not least of all when it comes to so-called 'fast fashion' which is often produced from Polyester blends (plastic in other words).

It's a grim tale to tell. It looks like we need millions of beachcombers to clear our shorelines of this deadly scourge. But we must first stop turning our majestic oceans into smelly refuse tips. The thought of our grandkids smothering plastic contaminated seafood with thousand-island dressing is, to me, utterly abhorrent.

Surely the less plastic we produce, the easier it will be to dispose of any waste? Or is that just too simplistic?