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​‘Plastic stones’ found at remote Hawaii beach

Published time: June 08, 2014 12:57
Image from geosociety.org

Image from geosociety.org

When humanity is extinct, alien researchers studying Earth may find evidence of our presence here in the form of plastic rocks buried underground. This is what a new study of “plastiglomerates” suggests in Hawaii.

Plastiglomerate is a fancy scientific word to describe melted plastic, which mixed with basalt rocks, sand, wood chips, charcoal and other stuff forms a new kind of stone. A team of researchers from Canada and the US found plenty of those at the remote Kamilo Beach on the southeast shore of Hawaii’s Big Island.

The scientists sampled 21 sites at the 700-meter-long beach and discovered 167 plastiglomerate fragments ranging in size between 2 centimeters and 22.5 centimeters, they reported in a paper published in GSA Today.

The source of the Frankenstein junk is campfires, the study says. Kamilo Beach is located some 12 kilometers from the closest paved road and can only be reached by four-wheel drive vehicles. So it’s rarely cleaned, but people who do get to it burn fires for warmth and cooking. Plastic melted by the heat adheres to basalt rocks, sand, coral pieces and other natural objects, forming the “plastic stones.”

Trash from Kamilo Beach, Hawaii (Photo by Gabriella Levine / flickr.com)

All sorts of man-made plastic was found on the beach and may end up as plastiglomerate, the report said.

“Typical plastic debris include derelict fishing gear, including nets, oyster spacer tubes and buoys; food and drinking containers; resin pellets; and abundant multicolored fragments or ‘plastic confetti’,” the latter being broken remains of things like plastic containers.

Given the abundance of plastic waste in the world, the team says there are many plausible scenarios how “plastic stones” can form without any extra help from humans.

“Although campfire burning is responsible for the plastiglomerate on Kamilo Beach, it is conceivable that the global extent of plastic debris could lead to similar deposits where lava flows, forest fires, and extreme temperatures occur,” the researchers wrote.

Plastic waste is mostly associated with the harm it causes to the environment, accumulating in the oceans and getting animals tangled up in nets or choking on bottles. But the study distinguishes plastiglomerate by its potential scientific use. It is denser than common plastic debris and is more prone to burial. And the slow degradation would mean it would be preserved for decades or centuries.

“This anthropogenically influenced material has great potential to form a marker horizon of human pollution, signaling the occurrence of the informal Anthropocene epoch,” the study said.

Anthropocene is a term some researchers suggests for a time period since approximately mid-18th century, when humanity became populous and technologically advanced enough to significantly affect environment on the global scale. Proponents say it’s distinct from the Holocene geological epoch, the time since the last Ice Age ended some 11,700 years ago.

Comments (7)

 

John Vorel 10.06.2014 04:57

What if a mineral out there is really the residual substance left over from a previous human like civilization that was on the earth a billion years ago? Mistaken for being a natural mineral because all records of such pre-existing pre-historic civilizations has been whipped out? Say for instance ... it could be something like zircon or tanzanite- or maybe garnet etc... and maybe its as common as something like coal. Now that would be a heavy and plausible reality.

 

Jessie Dows 09.06.2014 15:36

Why don't we recycle those plastic glomerular more easier ways ? We gotta start with each one of us .If each plastic container recycle get 15 cents , will you do it ? The other day I posted and shared with scientists find out recycle plastic container could reform reuse something like at car or plant . The plastic reform into more strong . Scientist found out by accident .
This is the place we live , don't you wanna make it better ? For you . For your next generations .

 

Len D 09.06.2014 04:15

George Carlin predicted this .LOL see youtube saving the planet !

View all comments (7)
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