Rocks Made of Plastic Found on Hawaiian Beach

In school you learned that there were three kinds of rocks: igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary. Now there's a fourth kind, plastiglomerate.

A sample of plastiglomerate, collected on Kamilo Beach in Hawaii.

Scientists say a new type of rock cobbled together from plastic, volcanic rock, beach sand, seashells, and corals has begun forming on the shores of Hawaii.

These stones, which they’ve dubbed “plastiglomerates,” most likely formed from melting plastic in fires lit by humans who ..., the team reports this month in GSA Today. Although anywhere there is a heat source, such as forest fires or lava flows, and “abundant plastic debris,” Corcoran says, “there is the potential for the formation of plastiglomerate.” When the plastic melts, it cements rock fragments, sand, and shell debris together, or the plastic can flow into larger rocks and fill in cracks and bubbles to form a kind of junkyard Frankenstein.

Corcoran says some of the plastic is still recognizable as toothbrushes, forks, ropes, and just “anything you can think of.” Once the plastic has fused to denser materials, like rock and coral, it sinks to the sea floor, and the chances it will become buried and preserved in the geologic record increase.

Corcoran and her team canvassed Kamilo Beach on the Big Island for more of the rocks and found plastiglomerate in all 21 sites they surveyed. She says people have already found plastiglomerate on another Hawaiian island, and she expects there to be much more on coastlines across the world. Plastiglomerate is likely well distributed, it’s just never been noticed before now, she says.

Tags: plastiglomerate

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Replies to This Discussion

I find such beauty in nature, I could never understand people that want to litter our planet with garbage.

In my neighborhood, it's mostly paper and cigarette butts.  

Even the city litters with their recycling program. They demand that recycled materials not be put in bags, but must be loose in the recycling bins.  That means whenever there's a breeze (90% of the time here), some of the paper flies out onto the streets when the bin is emptied into the trucks.  They also don't require that garbage be in bags , so stuff flies out of the garbage bins.

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