Scientists make 'disturbing' find on remote island: plastic rocks

Scientists make 'disturbing' find on remote island: plastic rocks

There are few places on Earth as isolated as Trindade island, a volcanic outcrop a three- to four-day boat trip off the coast of Brazil.

So geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos was startled to find an unsettling sign of human impact on the otherwise untouched landscape: rocks formed from the glut of plastic pollution floating in the ocean.

Santos first found the plastic rocks in 2019, when she traveled to the island to research her doctoral thesis on a completely different topic—landslides, erosion and other "geological risks."

She was working near a protected nature reserve known as Turtle Beach, the world's largest breeding ground for the endangered green turtle, when she came across a large outcrop of the peculiar-looking blue-green rocks.

Intrigued, she took some back to her lab after her two-month expedition.

Analyzing them, she and her team identified the specimens as a new kind of geological formation, merging the materials and processes the Earth has used to form rocks for billions of years with a new ingredient: plastic trash.

"We concluded that human beings are now acting as a geological agent, influencing processes that were previously completely natural, like rock formation," she told AFP.

"It fits in with the idea of the Anthropocene, which scientists are talking about a lot these days: the geological era of human beings influencing the planet's natural processes. This type of rock-like plastic will be preserved in the geological record and mark the Anthropocene."