"This is new and terrifying at the same time, because pollution has reached geology."
Scientists are reeling from the discovery of "plastic rocks" on a remote volcanic island off of the Brazilian coast — a troubling sign, experts told Reuters, of just how deeply plastic pollution has embedded itself into Earth's geological patterns.
The rocks, dubbed "plastiglomerates" — a molten mixture of sediment and debris, held together by melted plastic — have been discovered at a particularly troubling place.
"This is new and terrifying at the same time, because pollution has reached geology," Fernanda Avelar Santos, a geologist from the Federal University of Parana, explained to Reuters. "The place where we found these samples is a permanently preserved area in Brazil, near the place green turtles lay their eggs."
The island in question, Trindade Island, is a vital conservation area for endangered green turtles, which use the remote ocean as a nesting ground. With the exception of scientists, the only humans allowed on the island are Brazillian Navy officials, who patrol the area in an effort to protect the turtles.
In other words: in case we needed yet another reminder, plastic is absolutely everywhere, from the depths of the Mariana Trench to inside toddlers — and Trinidade Island is no exception.
Scientists traced the plastic in the mysterious rocks back to fishing nets, one of the most notorious — and devastating — ocean pollutants.
According to Santos, net trash is common on the remote island's beaches.
"The [nets] are dragged by the marine currents and accumulate on the beach," the geologist told Reuters, adding that "when the temperature rises, this plastic melts and becomes embedded with the beach's natural material."
It's a concerning discovery and one that certainly signals that the Anthropocene — an era in Earth's history defined by human development's impact on Earth's atmosphere, climate, and other geological functions — is well underway.
"We talk so much about the Anthropocene, and this is it," Santos told Reuters.
"The pollution, the garbage in the sea and the plastic dumped incorrectly in the oceans is becoming geological material," she added, "preserved in the earth's geological records."
READ MORE: Brazilian researchers find 'terrifying' plastic rocks on remote island [Reuters]
More on ocean pollution: The Ocean's Plastic Pollution Has Spiked to "Unprecedented" Levels