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Plastic rocks: An unnatural natural phenomenon unveiled

Rocks that have had plastic fully incorporated into their structure have been found in China.

Discovered in Heichi City, experts have claimed that these odd formations were formed from the large collection of plastic pollution floating in the ocean.

This new form of plastic pollution is likely due to the film of plastic chemically bonding to rocks.

The discovery was made weeks after similar rocks were found on a remote Brazilian island.

The rocks were found on Trindade, a volcanic island off the coast of Brazil by geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos, with similar concerns that the formation of the rocks came from the glut of plastic around the island.

The discovery adds credence to a growing global recognition of scientists that plastics have become part of Earth’s geology.

A study detailing the discovery of these plastic rocks, ‘Plastic- Rock Complexes as Hotspots for Microplastic Generation’ was published in Environmental Science and Technology.

The study details the discovery of a new type of plastic material in the environment, when plastic debris irreversibly sorbs onto the parent rock after historical flooding events.

The complexes which were examined consisted of low-density polyethylene (LDPE) or polypropylene (PP) films that had been stuck onto quartz-dominated mineral matrices.

Speaking on the research, Deyi Hou, a soil and groundwater scientist at Tsinghua University, said that the formation of plastic on these rocks was possibly driven by ultraviolet light from the sun.

“People in the twentieth and twenty-first century are creating new geological records,” Hou said in a report released by Nature.

Hou said the plastic embedded in the rock in this study came from the garbage accumulated in and around the creek, which included polypropylene films, used to make plastic bags, and polyethylene films, used by farmers to cover crops.

This new geological phenomenon could leak additional microplastics into the environment.

In order to test potential damages, the researchers detached parts of the films from the rocks and exposed them to wet and dry cycles to mimic the creek’s periodic floods over a longer period of time.

The findings presented found rates of microplastic generation greater than reported in lab tests mimicking plastic shedding in landfill, seawater, and marine sediment.

Further research is conducted on the formation and conditions taken to form these sedimentary objects, but early findings suggest that regions of higher pollution are the main drivers behind these curious rocks.

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