A “disturbing” discovery: there is now rock made of plastic

It is a “disturbing” discovery , according to the geologist who made it. Fernanda Avelar Santos has identified a plasticomerate, a rock formation in which one of the main ingredients is plastic.

Scientists have recently identified a new disease in birds linked to the ingestion of plastic. It would seem that this is not the only new phenomenon linked to this pollution. Geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos discovered a rock… made up of plastic. She published her find in 2022, in Marine Pollution Bulletin, but details its characteristics in a press release issued on March 21, 2023.

“It is part of the idea of ​​the Anthropocene, which scientists are talking about a lot at the moment: the geological era of the influence of human beings on the natural processes of the planet”, estimates Fernanda Avelar Santos, in this communicated. “This type of rock-like plastic will be preserved in the geological record and will mark the Anthropocene“. 

Macro photograph of this rock, one of the ingredients of which is… plastic. // Source: Fernanda Avelar Santos / Marine Pollution Bulletin

It was on the small isolated island of Trindade – in Brazil – that she discovered it. This, in an area yet untouched by human beings, near Turtle Beach, a protected reserve. The rock has a rather singular appearance: shades of blue and green mixed together; which caught his attention. Reason why the geologist recovered it to study it in the laboratory.


She was able to observe, with her team, that this material was formed like a classic rock, via the usual geological processes, with the difference that the plastic acted as an ingredient. She concludes that human beings can now act as biological agents influencing previously entirely natural processes.

Fernanda Avelar Santos was also able to find older reviews, dating from 2014 in particular, of this type of material composed of plastic. And, this in Hawaii, in the United Kingdom, in Italy, in Japan. She defines them as plastigomerates (plastiglomerates), like conglomerates — sedimentary formations of rock. “Marine pollution is causing a paradigm shift in the concepts of rock formation and sedimentary deposits”, notes this study.

Fernanda Avelar Santos says she is both “disturbed” and “angry” at this discovery, which shows how “vulnerable” the world is to waste. Especially since these rocks present a risk: as they erode, they can release large quantities of microplastics into the oceans. However, microplastics are already a very problematic pollution that goes as far as the Arcti, into our blood and sometimes ends up in the rain.

Plastic pollution is set to triple by 2040 according to some estimates. Fortunately, international policies are beginning to be put on the table, in particular to protect the oceans, but this remains very (too) slow.


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