Our Contribution To The Fossil Record


Mother Earth has turned our plastic trash into a new type of stone:

Most plastic in the ocean disintegrates into small pieces (which don’t go away, either), but some of it melts into “molten” plastic, and it fuses with all the regular, organic materials below it, forming a super-hard monolithic stone. It was first observed in Hawaii in 2006 by an oceanographer, but geologists didn’t collect the stones until 2012. According to the new study, even though most of the plastic is molten, you can often still identify specific objects within the stone, including “netting/ropes, pellets, partial containers/packaging, lids, tubes/pipes, and ‘confetti.'”

Unsurprisingly, these superhard “plastiglomerate” stones are sticking around:

The resulting materials, researchers report in the journal GSA Today, will probably be long-lived and could even become permanent markers in the planet’s geologic record. “Most conventional plastic is relatively thin and fragments quickly,” said Richard Thompson, a marine biologist at Plymouth University in England, who was not involved in the research. “But what’s being described here is something that’s going to be even more resistant to the aging process.”

(Image: Rocks made from molten plastic, rope, netting, plastic pellets, “confetti,” and other plastic debris found on Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach. Via GSA Today.)