Plastic rocks mean a rocky future for millions of people
What does plastic rocks mean in the long run?
Plastic rock, Credit, phys.org
Recently, geologist Fernanda Santis visited the isolated island of Trinidade in Brazil, located 1,140 km (708 miles) from the southeastern state of Espirito Santo, and on reaching a protected nature reserve known as Turtle Beach, the world's largest breeding ground for the endangered animal, Santis stumbled on rocks formed from the glut of plastics floating in the ocean.
In 2014, geologist Patricia Corcoran of the University of Western Ontario, Canada, and Charles Moore, captain of the oceanographic research vessel, Alguita, got to a beach on Big Island of Hawai, and they stumbled on new types of rocks they dubbed plastiglomerates, likely a formation from melting plastic in fires lit by human camping or fishing.
In 2019, researchers at the Marine and Environmental Research Center on the Portuguese island of Madeira turned their spotlight on the enviroment around them and stumbled on a new type of rock formation on the shore, thin coating of plastics on rocks like barnacles.
In many parts of the world, new types of rocks now see formation, plastics growing on rocks like barnacles, or rocks formed from the melting of plastics in fires lit by humans camping or fishing, or rocks formed through the glut of plastics floating in rivers, seas, and oceans.
A wide variety of applications result in the production of over 300 million tons of plastics every year, and at least 14 million tons of them not recycled end up in the ocean every twelve months, allowing plastics to make up eighty percent of all marine debris discovered on surface waters to deep sea segments, with many beaches having an average of 140 microplastic pieces per kg of beach sand, or about 50 pieces per one measuring cup full of sand.
Globally, only nine percent of plastic waste gets recycled, with 50 percent of the substance ending up in landfill, 19 percent in trash burnt, 22 percent of it escaping waste management systems and getting trapped in uncontrolled dumpsites, burned in open pits or leaking into the terrestrial or aquatic environment.
In 2016, plastics constituted more than half of 12 million tons of carbon dioxide from U.S incinerators, with the European Union burning 42 percent of waste infused with plastic, with up to a billion tons of unrecycled waste potentially burned in the open every year, a large quantity of it plastic.
Under these circumstances, an ample amount of unrecycled burnt plastic abounds yearly in open pits for the formation of plastiglomerate on beaches and other places, as well as enough plastics in the terrestrial environment to grow on rocks like barnacles, as well as enough plastics in the marine environment to form rocks from the glut of the product floating in the ocean.
An estimated 24 billion tons of fertile soil get lost through erosion every year, equal to 3.4 tons lost every year for each person on the planet, and with the formation of new types of rocks, it means even more of the fertile soil will get lost through increases in coming years, with even more microplastics getting leached into the environment.
In 2015, Dutch researchers found that marine species that swallowed or got caught in plastics had doubled from 267 to 567 from 1997 through yearly increases and that the number had now climbed to over 600, while other researchers estimated that the annual amount of microplastics ingested through food may be as high as 52,000 MP per year, with the figure reaching as high as 120,000 MP per year when experts add inhalation to it.
Each year, 100 million marine animals die from plastic waste, as yearly increases take place, with 100,000 of animals perishing from getting entangled in plastic wastes and one in three mammal species becoming entangled in litter, just as the North Pacific fish ingests 12 to 14,000 tons of plastic every year, all from 5.25 trillion estimated to be in the ocean, 15 percent of them on land through beaches.
With the number of plastics increasing yearly, more plastic rocks stand to get formed, their presence leading to the loss of even more fertile soils and the leaching of the environment, further complicating the challenge of marine animals living on beaches and remote islands.
Humanity received a “final warning” Monday from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the bottom line is to act now before it’s too late. The same thing could be said about plastic rocks, and some of the steps we could take include reducing the use of plastic, especially single-used plastic, recycling all of the plastic produced or reusing them, using products friendly to the environment, supporting products that explore alternatives to plastics, taking part in the clearing beaches of plastic products, as well as giving support to groups engaged in cutting down the use of plastics.
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Nigerian vegan dish, Credit, Plant-based-passport.com
Thanks for the work you do sharing these important insights.