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Human Impact Has Turned Earth into a 'Plastic Planet'

First Posted: Jan 27, 2016 02:16 PM EST

Human impact has actually created a "plastic planet." Scientists have found that planet Earth's oceans and lands will be buried by increasing layers of plastic waste by the mid-century due to human activity.

In this latest study, the researchers examined the evidence that we now live in the Anthropocene, which is an epoch where humans dominate the Earth's surface geology. This suggests that the surface of the planet is being noticeably altered by the production of long-lasting human-made materials, resulting in us entering what is, effectively, an "Age of Plastic."

"Plastics were more or less unknown to our grandparents, when they were children," said Jan Zalasiewicz, one of the researchers, in a news release. "But now, they are indispensable to our lives. They're everywhere-wrapping our food, being containers for our water and milk, providing cartons for eggs and yoghurt and chocolate, keeping our medicines sterile. They now make up most of the clothes that we wear, too."

In this latest study, researchers suggest that plastics have such a long-lasting impact on the planet's geology because they are inert and hard to degrade. As a result, when plastics litter the landscape they become a part of the soil, often ending up in the sea and being consumed by and killing plankton, fish and seabirds.

"Plastics will continue to be input into the sedimentary cycle over coming millennia as temporary stores-landfill sites-are eroded," said Zalasiewicz. "Plastics already enable fine time resolution within Anthropocene deposits via the development of their different types and via the artefacts known as 'technofossils,' they are molded into, and many of these may have long-term preservation potential when buried in strata."

The new findings reveal that we may, in fact, be in an age of plastics. More specifically, we could be changing our planet and its makeup by our trash.

The findings are published in the journal Anthropocene.

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