A study found the formation of plastic-rock hybrids in the intertidal zone of remote beaches of Aves Island in the Andaman archipelago. This is a first record of these hybrid rocks, known as plastiglomerates, from India. Samples from the island that were analysed contained polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride. Incineration of plastic litter could have led to their formation. The impact of plastiglomerates on marine ecosystems is yet to be understood as research on plastiglomerates is an emerging field.
A new study by the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Kolkata, found the first record of plastiglomerates in the Indian sub-continent on Aves Island in the Andaman archipelago. The samples studied contained polyethylene and polyvinyl chloride mixed with rock and sand, and were possibly a result of solid waste burning in the open.
The impact of plastic on geological processes is little known and its presence in the formation of rocks is a relatively new form of plastic pollution. Plastiglomerates or plastic-rock hybrids are formed when plastic pollution mixes with organic or inorganic material and forms rocks through geological processes.
In May 2022, the researchers stumbled upon samples during a coastal monitoring survey of intertidal sandy beaches. Located at 3.5 kilometres east of Mayabunder, a town in the north Andaman district, Aves Island harbours mangroves, coral reefs, seaweed and rocky outcrops. On analysing the samples, a single plastiglomerate composed of green polyethylene and black polyvinyl chloride plastic material, was found.
Prasun Goswami, the lead author of the study, published in March this year, explained how these hybrid forms of plastic and rock are formed when the former, in the form of burnt litter, mixes with conglomerates, which are sedimentary rock made up of fragments like pebbles, sand, and silt. “If benthic organisms such as mussels or shrimp inadvertently ingest plastiglomerates, it will definitely have a toxicological effect on them,” Goswami said…
Image at top: Rocks called “plastiglomerates” – because they are made of a mixture of sedimentary granules and other debris held together by plastic, mainly fishing nets – have been found in Brazil’s volcanic Trindade Island. Researchers view this as evidence of humans’ growing influence over the earth’s geological cycles (screenshot taken from Global News video “Mutated “plastic rocks” discovered on remote Brazilian island,” March 23, 2023, via Youtube).
Additional Articles and Media:
‘Terrifying’ plastic rock finding: Pollution is embedded in this Brazilian island’s geology – USA Today
New plastic pollution formed by fire looks like rocks – National Geographic
Rocks Made of Plastic Found on Hawaiian Beach – USA Today
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