“Perhaps in the future, when people engage in archaeological work, they will discover a layer of plastic-embedded rocks underground, just like today’s discoveries of dinosaur fossils.”
The fusion of plastic and rocks in the past has been attributed to physical processes. The discovery by the Hou Deyi team reveals for the first time the chemical bonding between plastic and rocks.
In addition to serving as geological markers, the significance of “plastic rocks” to the academic community lies in their potential impact on the environment and human health.
These plastics are tightly adhered to the rocks, as if glued. It is visible to the naked eye that the edges of the plastic have fused with the rocks—they are attached to rocks that are about the size of an adult’s palm, with no distinguishing features from other stones.
These peculiar plastics alongside small streams caught the attention of Professor Hou Deyi from Tsinghua University’s School of Environment and his team members. In April 2023, Hou Deyi’s team published a paper in the international scientific journal “Environmental Science & Technology” reporting on the findings of this investigation.
The paper reveals, for the first time, that plastic and rocks form a chemical bond, creating “plastic rocks.” Plastic has become part of sedimentary rock formations, capable of long-term preservation in the geological records of the Earth. This discovery indicates that artificial plastic products have entered the natural geological records, serving as evidence of the impact of human activities on the geological cycle.
“Perhaps in the future, when people engage in archaeological work, they will discover a layer of plastic-embedded rocks underground, just like today’s discoveries of dinosaur fossils,” said Hou Deyi.