This is a disaster.
Scientists have come across strange new rocks that contain manmade plastic in all five inhabited continents, Newsweek reports — a shocking sign of the sheer permeation of plastic pollution into the "natural" world.
According to a study published earlier this year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, rocks that contain artificial plastic polymers were found along shorelines and inland in 11 countries spread across the globe.
"Our recent study was the first to report the discovery of plastistones in the inland region and the first to report the chemical bonding between plastic and rock," coauthor Deyi Hou, associate professor of environment at Tsinghua University in China, told Newsweek.
The first time scientists came across "plastiglomerates" was on a beach in Hawaii almost a decade ago.
"Molten plastic, sand grains, clasts from rock, coral, shells, and wood debris were held together after campfire burning on Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, USA," Hou explained. "Since then, they have been frequently found on beaches, both on islands and mainland coastlines."
As for how they're formed, Hou suggests they're not just the results of plastic debris melting in a campfire and then cooling down, but can also result from waves crashing "against intertidal rocks," causing ocean plastic to "become physically adhered to the rock surface."
The chemical binding the scientists observed was possibly the result of sunlight irradiation that oxidized the plastic, they suggest.
On a global scale, all of this plastic can lower microbial diversity and shed microplastics, which can eventually make their way into human and animal bodies.
In short, it's an alarming trend that doesn't bode well for the future of natural ecosystems across the globe.
"Plastiglomerate poses an imminent danger to ocean sustainability, blue economy and overall human health," Hou told Newsweek.
More on plastic rocks: Alarmed Scientists Discover “Terrifying” Rocks Made of Plastic Trash on Remote Island
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