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Humans Created A 'Plastic Planet,' Study Reveals

First Posted: Jan 27, 2016 03:39 PM EST
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The Earth is gradually becoming a plastic planet. Researchers found that the majority of the Earth's oceans and land masses will be covered with layers of plastic waste by the mid-century due to human activity, according to a study led by the University of Leicester. The researchers examined evidence, which indicates that humans now live in the Anthropocene, an epoch where human activities and materials have created an "Age of Plastic."

"If all the plastic made in the last few decades was cling film, there would be enough to put a layer around the whole Earth," Jan Zalasiewicz, coauthor of the study, said in a news release. "With current trends of production, there will be the equivalent of several more such layers by mid-century."

Since plastic is non-biodegradable, it has a long term effect on the Earth's geology. Plastic litter on a landscape eventually becomes a part of soil, which often finds its way in the ocean and is consumed by fish and seabirds. Plastic waste often travels thousands of miles where it accumulates and forms massive oceanic garbage patches, while plastic wastes sink into the ocean and over time it becomes a part of the ocean's ecosystem.

"Once buried, being so hard-wearing, plastics have a good chance to be fossilized - and leave a signal of the ultimate convenience material for many million years into the future," Zalasiewicz said. "The age of plastic may really last for ages."

The findings of this study were published in the journal Anthropocene.

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