Stratigraphic plastic

Plastic is an inert polymer and difficult to degrade: recent studies estimate plastic will most characterize the sedimentary layer of Anthropocene.

The massive use of plastic, starting from the second half of 1900 (read here), both as a material element of modern life and as a growing environmental pollutant, has been widely described (read here). Plastics, in fact, are everywhere: from food containers to toys, from technology to clothes.

Vicious circle

The mismanagement of the plastic cycle, from production to disposal, has led (and is still leading) the oceans and land on planet Earth to be buried by growing layers of plastic waste.

A recent study[1] reports that plastics have such a lasting impact on the environment and geology of the planet because they are inert and difficult to degrade.

As a result, when plastics pollute the landscape, they become part of the soil and often end up in the sea, causing problems for plankton, fish, birds and marine mammals.

The age of plastics

Plastic can also travel thousands of kilometers thanks to sea currents and increasingly expand the so-called “garbage islands” (read here), or eventually be taken to beaches around the world or sink to the seabed and become part of the geological strata of the future.

If we do not take urgent measures, plastic will continue to be introduced into the sedimentary cycle with increasing frequency.

Once buried, being so resistant, plastics have a good chance of being fossilized and leaving a trace of artificial material for many millions of years in the future.

The age of plastics, can really last for centuries and will leave indelible traces in the geology of the Planet.

1     Jan Zalasiewicz, Colin N. Waters, Juliana Ivar do Sul, Patricia L. Corcoran, Anthony D. Barnosky, Alejandro Cearreta, Matt Edgeworth, Agnieszka Gałuszka, Catherine Jeandel, Reinhold Leinfelder, J.R. McNeill, Will Steffen, Colin Summerhayes, Michael Wagreich, Mark Williams, Alexander P. Wolfe, Yasmin Yonan. The geological cycle of plastics and their use as a stratigraphic indicator of the Anthropocene. Anthropocene, 2016; DOI: 10.1016/j.ancene.2016.01.002

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