Brazilian researchers find ‘terrifying’ plastic rocks on remote island

The discovery of rocks made from plastic debris on Brazil’s Trindade Island has sparked alarm among scientists, reports Reuters.

Located 1,140 kilometers (708 miles) from the State of Espirito Santo in southeastern Brazil, Trindade Island’s rocks have become intertwined with melted plastic. According to researchers, this is a new and harrowing illustration of humans’ escalating negative impact on the planet. “Pollution has reached geology,” said geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos of the Federal University of Parana.

These “plastiglomerates” comprise a mixture of sedimentary particles and other debris held together by plastic. After running chemical tests to identify the types of plastics in the rocks, Santos and her team discovered that the pollution mainly comes from fishing nets, which is very common debris on Trinidade Island's beaches. "The nets are dragged by the marine currents and accumulate on the beach. When the temperature rises, this plastic melts and becomes embedded with the beach's natural material," Santos said.

The concerning discovery prompts questions regarding humankind’s legacy on earth. "We talk so much about the Anthropocene, and this is it," Santos said, referring to a proposed geological period during which humans are the dominant influence on climate and the environment. "The pollution, the garbage in the sea and the plastic dumped incorrectly in the oceans is becoming geological material... preserved in the earth's geological records."

Trindade Island is one of the world’s most important conservation sites for threatened green sea turtles (Chelonia mydas), with thousands arriving each year to lay their eggs. The plastic rock samples were found close to where they lay their eggs.

Image credit: Rodolfo Buhrer/Reuters

Banner Image credit: Rodolfo Buhrer/Reuters

 

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