New Rock in Hawaii Made of Plastic (Wikimedia Commons/Hajj0 ms) [Representational Image]
New Rock in Hawaii Made of Plastic (Wikimedia Commons/Hajj0 ms) [Representational Image]Wikimedia Commons/Hajj0 ms

The use of plastics became extensive during the mid-20th century and since then several billion tons have been manufactured, some clogging up landfills while some trapped in Arctic ice.

A team of researchers have discovered that some plastic wastes are soon becoming a new type of rock.

The substance, contributing to the formation of new rock is called plastiglomerate, which is a combination of natural and manufactured materials, according to a report in the journal GSA Today. Plastic when in molten form binds together sand, pebbles, basalt, coral, shells and wood and fits into the cavities of bigger rocks to form a plastic-rock hybrid.

According to the researchers, the resulting material could probably become permanent on the planet.

"Most conventional plastic is relatively thin and fragments quickly. But what's being described here is something that's going to be even more resistant to the aging process." International New York Times quoted Richard Thompson, a marine biologist at Plymouth University in England, who was not directly involved in the research.

Plastiglomerate was first found in 2006 by Charles Moore, oceanographer and sea captain at the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Long Beach, California. Moore discovered the substance while surveying plastic on Kamilo Beach, island of Hawaii. 

However, the significance of the discovery was not realized until Moore met Corcoran, an earth scientist at Western University in Ontario in 2012.

Corcoran, along with a team of researchers set for hunting more samples of the new rock. They were successful in finding pieces of plastiglomerate in many of the sites they visited. The fact that Kamilo Beach has numerous numbers of Plastiglomerate is that, it accumulates wastage due to heavy current circulation and the weight of the combined coral, plastic and natural rock together caused the rock to sink to the ocean floor.

"I'm sure people have seen plastiglomerates in other places and just haven't reported them or given them a name," Dr Corcoran said.

A paleontologist at the University of Leicester in the UK, Jan Zalasiewicz claims that the abundance of plastic and its ability to remain in the environment opens up the possibility of plastiglomerate surviving as fossils too.

"Plastics and plastiglomerates might well survive as future fossils. If they are buried within the strata, I don't see why they can't persist in some form for millions of years." said Jan Zalasiewicz, who was not involved in the discovery.