The discovery of “terrifying” plastic rocks on remote islands

Plastics have become a part of Earth's geology, and of the various forms available, this time it has been found in plastic rocks. Geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos discovered the plastic pebbles in Trindade, a volcanic island 1.140 km off the coast of Brazil.

Table of Contents


A new sort of plastic pollution has been discovered by Chinese scientists: sheets of plastic waste chemically linked to rocks. A team from Tsinghua University in Beijing made the startling finding in Heichi City, China. This comes just weeks after similar rocks were discovered on a distant Brazilian island. Geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos discovered the rocks in Trindade, a volcanic island off the coast of Brazil. Santos claimed these rocks were generated by the massive amount of plastic waste floating in the ocean.

What are plastic rocks?

Santos, a geologist at the Federal University of Parana, stumbled across a strange outcrop of blue-green-looking rocks on the shore. These rocks were unlike anything she’d ever seen. Analyses of this weird material found that these structures were made of plastic rubbish, generated by the same geological processes that produce the various sorts of rocks on our planet.

Plastic rocks are chemically attached films of plastic trash on rocks. The plastic imbedded in the rock was derived from waste that had accumulated in and around the creek. Polypropylene films, which are used to produce plastic bags, and polyethylene films, which are used by farmers to cover crops, are examples of these.

An early research

Plastic rocks, also known as plastiglomerates, are a novel type of conglomerate created partially from plastic waste and were first discovered on a beach on Hawaii’s Big Island in 2014. Another discovery by geologists in Brazil described sedimentary rocks with plastic-lined bottle tops, plastic earrings, and other garbage lodged in their layers in 2020. The rocks were termed anthropoquinas. Other researchers have discovered “plastiglomerates,” which are generated when melted plastic glues together rocks, sand, and other natural and man-made materials. Pyroplastics, which develop from burned plastic trash, are another man-made and plastic-based rock.

Present research

A team from Tsinghua University in Beijing discovered the plastic rocks near Heichi City, China. This comes just weeks after similar rocks were discovered on a remote Brazilian island. These rocks were generated as a result of the abundance of plastic waste floating in the water.

The latest Chinese discovery adds to scientists’ growing recognition that plastics have become ingrained in Earth’s geology. The discovery of these ‘plastic rocks’ was documented in a paper published in Environmental Science and Technology.

Trindade Island, as you may know, is one of the world’s most significant conservation sites for the endangered green turtle. Members of the Brazilian navy, who maintain a base on this island, protect the nesting turtles and are the only humans on it. On this island, fishing nets were revealed to be a major source of plastic trash used to produce plastic pebbles.

Are plastic rocks really a threat?

It’s past time for us to recognise that plastic is interfering with natural elements and isn’t leaving anything in its purest form.

This revelation helps us realise that even remote portions of the Earth are suffering from the effects of plastic pollution, despite the fact that we haven’t dipped our dirty fingers in those locations.
In relatively unspoiled locations like Trindade, delicate ecosystems are under considerably greater threat than previously assumed. Santos is concerned that the plastic rocks will erode and release microplastics into the nearby seas. This has the disastrous possibility of migrating up the food chain on the island, with dire health repercussions for all creatures in the vicinity.

Plastic rocks are also a source of concern since they can release microplastics into the environment. These plastic shards can travel vast distances through the atmosphere and oceans, penetrate plant tissues, and be mistaken for food by animals such as fish and birds. Hou and his colleagues separated segments of the films and exposed them to wet-dry cycles in the laboratory to simulate what may happen when the creek regularly floods and to determine how much microplastic would be released by the sheets linked to the rocks they discovered. The researchers discovered microplastic generation rates that are orders of magnitude higher than those found in lab tests simulating plastic shedding in landfills, seas, and marine sediment.

What can be done?

Experts warn that drastic measures must be taken before the situation worsens. “Plastics or microplastics are everywhere in our natural environment—from the foods we eat to the water we drink and in the entire ecosystem,” stated UN India’s Public Information Assistant. Plastic has now entered the fossil record and our current geological age. So much so that we invented the Plastisphere, a novel marine microbial home. If we don’t stop now, we won’t be able to leave a livable Earth for future generations.” She emphasised the importance of taking urgent action and making eliminating plastic pollution a citizen’s campaign.


More instances of plastic interactions in terrestrial ecosystems are being sought, and the complexes are being better characterised in the lab. Some geologists consider the growing amount of studies on plastic rocks as further proof that people have drastically impacted the geology of the world since the mid-twentieth century.

Instead of simply raising awareness about plastic pollution and climate change, it is necessary to become loud and begin demanding measures and policies from political authorities. Not only adults but also children must grasp that the Earth is in danger and that we must act quickly to change its fate.


What are the plastic rocks?

Plastic rocks are rocks generated as a result of the massive amount of plastic trash floating in the ocean. These plastic trash films are chemically bound to rocks. Plastic wastes include everything from plastic bags to polyethylene films to fishing nets and much more.

Where is plastic mainly found?

Plastic is found on the shorelines of all continents, with more plastic trash found near prominent tourist destinations and densely populated places.

What are the sources of plastic waste?

World’s ocean has cigarette butts in max proportion, and then comes food wrappers and containers that contribute to 31.14% of total pollution to the environment. Other items include plastic bags and bottle, and single use plastic products.

India alone produces 3.5 million tonnes of plastic waste annually and this contributes to 25,490 per capita waste generated. Over the previous five years, India's plastic waste generation has quadrupled.

Social Media

Most Popular

Stay Updated with the latest
Subscribe To Our Weekly Newsletter

TheGreenLiving is reader-supported. When you buy via the links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.