Researchers discover bizarre plastic stones on island


On the lonely, uninhabited Brazilian island of Trindade in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the word plastic mountains has taken on a whole new meaning: although only researchers and the Brazilian military have access to the island, so much plastic waste has washed up that it has combined with the existing stones to form bizarre rock formations.

This so-called plastic crust was discovered by the Brazilian geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos. When she came to Trindade in 2019 to research landslides, erosion and other geological hazards for her dissertation, she noticed strange blue-green shimmering rocks while walking on Turtle Beach. She took some samples and examined them.

Completely new geological phenomenon
In the lab, the rock formations turned out to be a new geological phenomenon: the minerals in the rocks, which took millions of years to form, have clumped together with plastic washed up by the sea. Most of the plastic organisms found in the stones came from fishing nets, but some also came from plastic bottles and other household waste washed up by ocean currents.

Since then, plastic crusts have become the focus of Fernanda Avelar Santos’ research. She sees this as clear proof that human intervention in nature does not stop at isolated tropical paradises. The bizarre rock formations on Trinidade now even have their own names – such as plastiglomerates and plastistones.

Home to rare seabirds and crabs
Trindade is about 1,200 kilometers off the coast of Brazil and it takes three to four days to get there by boat. The volcanic island is home to rare seabirds, fish and crab species. It is also home to the world’s largest nesting site for the endangered green sea turtle.

Plastic bottle “Symbol des Anthropozäns”
The Brazilian geologist told AFP news agency that the plastic rocks allow her and her team only one conclusion: “That humans are now interfering with geological processes such as the formation of rocks that used to be completely natural”. These plastic rocks will go down in history “as a symbol of the Anthropocene” — a symbol of a man-made geological age, she adds.

Plastic crusts have been found in Hawaii, the UK, Italy and Japan since 2014, but they have never been so far from human habitation as on Trindade. The young researcher says her discovery in her “paradise” for flora and fauna “has moved her very much”.

Eiland shows the extent of the waste problem
Trindade is “the most pristine place” she knows, says Avelar Santos. She worries that plastic microorganisms could be eroded back into the ocean and contaminate the island’s food chain. To see how vulnerable even this remote island in the mid-Atlantic is to the “pollution of our seas” shows the full extent of this global problem.

Source: Krone


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