Plastic-rock hybrid discovered in Andaman’s Aves island
Known as Plastiglomerate, the rock is composed of sand, rock fragments, shells and other materials held together by plastic, resulting in a plastic-rock hybrid. It is a new form of plastic pollution described by scientists in 2014
A team of marine biologists during routine monitoring of marine litter in some of the remote Andaman and Nicobar Islands, have stumbled upon a piece of rock made from plastic.
The rock which was discovered on a beach on Aves Island is the first such find from India.
Known as Plastiglomerate, the rock is composed of sand, rock fragments, shells and other materials held together by plastic, resulting in a plastic-rock hybrid. It is a new form of plastic pollution described by scientists in 2014.
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“This is the first find from India of Plastiglomerate. Laboratory analysis showed that it has two very commonly used plastic polymers– polyethene and polyvinyl chloride– which was holding the smaller rock and sand particles to form a rock, approximately the size of ones found along railway tracks,” said Punyasloke Bhadury, a professor of biological sciences at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Kolkata.
The findings have been published in Marine Plastic Pollution, a peer-reviewed journal, published in March last year by Elsevier, a Dutch academic publishing company specializing in scientific, technical, and medical content.
Plastic accumulating in oceans and on beaches has turned into a global crisis due to which thousands of seabirds and sea turtles, seals and other marine mammals are killed each year after ingesting plastic or getting entangled in it.
Recent research findings suggest that the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal are facing increasing threats of plastic pollution. A research paper published in Current Science in 2019 revealed that plastic from around ten Asian countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand were found in five islands in the archipelago, an area that contains a group of islands scattered in lakes, rivers, or the ocean.
Scientists say that even though plastic pollution in the marine environment is being studied for the past five decades, new types of previously undiscovered plastic debris keep emerging globally. Plastiglomerate rock is one such form.
These man-made aggregates were initially discovered at Kamilo Beach, Hawaii, and have since been reported in Indonesia, the United States, Portugal, Canada, Peru, and now in India.
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“Other newly discovered forms of marine plastic pollution include plastic crust (a layer of plastic encrusted onto ocean rocks and Pyroclastic– burnt plastic that looks like pebbles). These forms of plastic pollution have the potential to survive millions of years and may even enter the geological record,” said Bhadhury.
On the discovery of Plastiglomerate on Aves Island, scientists say it could be that some plastic was burnt close to the island which may have later bound the sand and rock fragments or the rock may have been washed ashore from distant places by the sea.
“These are newly reported forms of marine plastic pollution. This is an emerging field. Even though scientists have been studying the ill effects of plastic, we know very little about these new forms, their toxicity, degradation, and release of secondary pollutants like micro-plastics and nano-plastics and chemical additives,” said Punarbasu Chaudhuri, associate professor in the department of environmental science in Calcutta University.