Brazilian Researchers Find 'Plastic Rocks' Formed From Marine Trash on Volcanic Island in South Atlantic

Brazilian researchers said they discovered “rocks” formed from plastic debris on Brazil’s Trindade Island, a remote volcanic island in the South Atlantic, in November of 2022.

The island, located a little over 1,000 kilometers east of the continent of South America, is an important conservation area for marine life – including nesting green turtles — and is uninhabited by humans except approximately 30 Brazilian Navy personnel stationed at a base there, according to reports.

Fernanda Avelar Santos, a PhD student at the Federal University of Parana’s Coastal Studies Laboratory, said she and her colleagues came across the plastic rocks while performing geological mapping work on the island and called the discovery “alarming” and “concerning.”

“I didn’t expect to find plastic rocks. The focus of my fieldwork was on volcanic rocks, not marine pollution,” Santos told Storyful.

The rocks were formed by plastic from fishing nets and other marine trash fusing with sand, gravel, and volcanic rocks, according to Santos.

“We found Plastiglomerates and Pyroclastics, which are types already reported in other oceanic environments worldwide. And we identified Plastistones as a novel type. This discovery is concerning because it was found on a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean, which is an environmental protection area, and only 30 to 40 people live there. This shows that continuous input of plastic litter in the ocean achieved alarming levels that are exposing new settings in natural systems,” Santos said.

Santos said the discovery indicates that human behavior is influencing geology, and gives evidence suggesting that we have moved from the Holocene epoch into a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. The official position of the International Union of Geological Sciences is that we are currently in the Holocene epoch.

“Finding this kind of marine litter on a nature reserve is an important warning of current human behavior. The next steps of our research will be to find solutions to this problem on Trindade Island and approach other ocean areas in Brazil.” Credit: Fernanda Avelar Santos/Ana Clara Suhett via Storyful