Login with your Social Account

environmental damage ocean pollution

Researchers identify plastic pollution identical to the appearance of rocks

The overuse of plastics by human beings has carried it to the wilderness of Antarctica along with the highest and deepest places on Earth. But it still manages to surprise us in its new forms. A new research has found plastics in the camouflage of ordinary pebbles. The study has been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment.  

Known as pyroplastics, these plastic chunks are created when plastic is melted by some process such as manufacturing. Then they get weathered in a way similar to rocks and keep shedding microplastics as they are carried by the sea and sands. 

They have escaped our attention being similar to rocks. They have been detected as plastiglomerates in Hawaii, where they were mixed with sands and shells. However they differ from manufactured plastic in terms of origin, thickness and appearance. They have been found in Spain, Vancouver, hence it is suspected that it might not be a regional phenomenon. We are not able to document it on a large scale due to its geogenic appearance. 

Andrew Turner from the University of Plymouth and his colleagues researched on 165 plastic chunks from Whitsand Bay beaches in Cornwall. They also received from Orkneys, Scotland and County Kerry, Ireland. Through attenuated total reflection and infrared spectroscopy, they found that the chunks were mostly polyethylene or polypropylene. However through X-Ray fluorescence it was revealed that the samples also contained lead chromate which when mixed with plastic gives it a orange or red hue. Its use is restricted by Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive (RoHS), however the quantity present in the sample is greater than the limits set by RoHS. Few samples stuck to the calcium carbonate tubes of marine worm Spirobranchus triqueter. In these tubes, lead was found. 

This suggests that the compound can enter the bodies of living organisms. If found in the bodies of worms, it could also pass on to its predators. Hence there is a necessity to conduct research on a wider scale to find out the actual quantity of this plastic which is hiding from our daily view. Their impact on the environment and the amount of microplastics released can be properly gauged after that. 

Pyroplastics need to classified in a separate manner within the classification of marine litter. Researchers mention that they are also a source of finer plastic particles which are then able to contaminate organisms who ingest them. 

Journal Reference: Science of the Total Environment

plastic pollution forming plasticrust ocean shores

Researchers discover a different type of plastic pollution at the shoreline

Scientists have recently discovered crust of plastic particles that were forming up on shoreline rocks. This ‘plasticrust’  is a huge threat to the creatures inhabiting on rocks and there could also be a possibility of plastic entering into their food chain. The study was published in Science of the Total Environment

A Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre (MARE) team from Portugal has been observing the building up of plastics across the shore of the volcanic island of Madeira by evaluating their impact on the local ecosystem since 2016. Ignacio Gestoso, a marine ecologist said that the crusts are developed due to the crashing of large pieces of plastics against the rock shores similar to how algae or lichens do.

The plasticrust looks similar to a chewed piece of gum or a squeeze of toothpaste on the rocks and their shape is similar to that of inhabitants on the rock and this way the plastic is fixing itself into the environment. Several researchers like Gestoso are researching on the reason behind its formation and their effects and thus it was discovered that they are formed due to the usage of polyethylene, the material found in plastic bags and food packaging. Now according to the scientists, this polyethylene which is sticking to the shoreline covers nearly about 10 percent of the surface of the rock.

The researchers and their team also discovered a proof which shows that the winkle sea snails which eats algae are as comfortable being in the plasticrust as they are on the rocks and thus they might be sucking the plasticrust and the algae on the rock as well. As of now, the researchers just want us to make aware of this problem. If we don’t reduce the usage of plastics then the rocks which are getting covered by plastics will bring serious issues to the microorganisms.

However, sadly this is not the first time this has occurred. In the year 2014, there was a discovery of plastiglomerates which is a substance similar to rock made from melted plastics and organic debris. The scientists say that plastic is hugely used and if it continues this way then we’ll leave huge sediments of plastics for the future generation. Gestoso told that he, as a marine ecologist researcher would like to choose to report about other types of discoveries than describing a sad new way of plastic pollution in his research paper.