Disturbing Geology Findings Shows Plastic Rock Formations

Rocks Made of Melted Plastic Waste Found on Remote Island. “Plastic rocks” found on Trindade Island in the State of Espirito Santo is seen at the laboratory of the Federal University of Parana, in Curitiba, State of Parana, Brazil. REUTERS/Rodolfo Buhrer


Recent studies discover the latest evidence that plastic pollution is a global problem.

In September 2022, Marine Pollution Bulletin released an article, “Plastic debris forms: Rock analogues emerging from marine pollution” about plastistones (rocks fused with melted plastic) discovered on the remote volcanic Trindade Island, off the coast of Brazil. Trindade Island is an important conservation spot for the endangered green sea turtle. The Brazilian Navy maintains a base on the island to protect the turtles, and are the only human inhabitants.

Plastistones are described as an analogue to igneous rock (rocks formed by the cooling of magma) that are made from plastic waste. These plastic rocks are found along the beach and form as plastic debris washed ashore breaks down and mixes with the island’s volcanic rock.

Plastistones, Plastiglomerates, and Pyroplastics?

This occurrence of plastistones is one of many sightings of “plastic geology” that have occurred in recent years. USA Today’s article, ‘‘Terrifying’ plastic rock finding: Pollution is embedded in this Brazilian island’s geology’ reports of plastiglomerates, an amalgamation of “rock, sand, and debris fused together by melted plastic” having been reported in Hawaii as early as 2014, as well as pyroplastics, pebble like rocks formed out of burnt plastics on the coast of England in 2019.

In September 2022, lead author of the Marine Pollution Bulletin, Fernanda Avelar Santos, named this new occurrence of plastic waste merging with the ecosystem as a possible contaminant and hazard to any living organism. She contributes a considerable amount of the plastics found in plastistones to waste coming from fishing nets. “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.”

“This is new and terrifying at the same time, because pollution has reached geology,” Santos

The Deepest Depths

Linking Santos’ findings to The Guardian’s 2017 article, “‘Extraordinary’ levels of pollutants found in 10 kilometers (about 6.21 miles) deep Mariana trench,’” where one of the most remote and untouched places on our planet has been discovered to be contaminated by human waste and toxic chemicals; we can see that the waste created by humans have considerable impacts to the larger world around us.

A container of a tin from a food product rests at 4,947 meters on the slopes of a canyon leading to the Sirena Deep in the Mariana Trench. Photograph: Noaa Office of Ocean Exploration.


An expedition conducted by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2022 also found various manmade items on the slopes leading to the Sirena Deep, part of the Mariana Trench, and the nearby Enigma Seamount. They included tin containers, beer bottles and several plastics bags.

A Unified Effort

While it may feel as if we are entrenched in a hopeless battle against environmental injustice, it is essential that we are aware and critical of why reducing single use purchases, proper recycling and waste management are necessary to protect our planet and its inhabitants.

Whether it is reducing your usage of waste producing products like single use plastics, recycling your items properly, or advocating for institutional accountability and legislature, the work of undoing the impacts of human waste takes a global effort.