Scientists sound the alarm as plastic waste forms rocks off coast of Brazil: ‘New and terrifying’

‘Pollution has reached geology’ says a scientist

Stuti Mishra
Saturday 18 March 2023 09:31 GMT

Related video: Plastic waste found littering sea floor during deepest ever ocean dive

Geologists in Brazil’s Trindade Island have made a ”terrifying” discovery: rocks made from plastic debris.

Scientists studying the remote island – which is a turtle refuge – found that plastic has become intertwined with rocks on the island, sparking alarms over the growing impact of plastic waste over the earth’s geological cycles.

The island is located 1,140km from the southeastern state of Espirito Santo and it is a protected area for green turtles, which lay their eggs there.

“This is new and terrifying at the same time, because pollution has reached geology,” Fernanda Avelar Santos, a geologist at the Federal University of Parana, said,

Mr Santos went on to say that “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”.

The geology of Brazil‘s volcanic Trindade Island has fascinated scientists for years. The island is mostly uninhabited and isolated from human influence, but the growing amount of plastic waste has found its way.

“We identified (the pollution) mainly comes from fishing nets, which is very common debris on Trinidade Island’s beaches,” Mr Santos said.

“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.”

Trindade Island is one of the world’s most important conservation spots for green turtles, or Chelonia mydas, with thousands arriving each year to lay their eggs.

The only human inhabitants on Trindade are members of the Brazilian navy, which maintains a base on the island and protects the nesting turtles.

The discovery stirs questions about humans’ legacy on the earth, said Mr Santos.

“We talk so much about the Anthropocene, and this is it,” he said, referring to a proposed geological epoch defined by humans’ impact on the planet’s geology and ecosystems.

“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.”

Plastic trash and waste in the water of the world's oceans

By the latest estimate, more than 170 trillion pieces is floating in the world’s oceans, according to new analysis from the 5 Gyres Institute.

Every day around 8 million pieces of plastic make their way into our oceans.

The amount of plastic trash that flows into the oceans every year is expected to nearly triple by 2040, and there could be more plastic than fishes in the ocean.

Meanwhile, a 2022 OECD report found that production of plastic has doubled worldwide in the last 20 years, with only 9 per cent successfully recycled.

Additional reporting by agencies

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