A recent study reported by the Geological Society of America has revealed that synthetic plastic, which has an overwhelming presence in our world today, will become a permanent part of the geological record, as plastic takes about 1,000 years to completely break down. As it breaks down it can be combined with various natural substances to create a completely new material called plastiglomerate.
Originally examined in Hawaii by Captain Charles Moore, plastiglomerate is believed to form when people have fires on the beach and the plastic in the sand melts and fused with sand, shells, and coral. Ocean waves pull the plastiglomerate from the beach and it to the ocean and the substance continues to sink to the bottom to become part of the fossil record. The density of plastic alone would not allow this process to occur.
Two different types of plastiglomerate, which has been found in 21 different sites, have been reported – clastic and in situ. Clastic plastiglomerate is a loose group of natural material that is glued together by the melting plastic and then cooled. The less common of the two, in situ plastiglomerate, is created when plastic melts directly onto a rock.
Plastiglomerate may have the ability to forever mark the influence of humanity on the environment, but it is debated if future generations will be able to use it as a geological marker of our time. Authors of the study believe that some kinds of plastiglomerate will turn into to a crude oil-like state when exposed to extremely high temperatures.
Nevertheless, we still need to be increasingly cautious about our use of plastic, as 6 billion tons have been produced since 1950. Each year, 50 billion plastic water bottles are used in the United States and more than 85% are not recycled. However, Quench is constantly working to change these statistics and makes it easy for to you to eliminate plastic use by simply switching to a bottleless water cooler!