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New “Plasticrust” Is Forming On Our Shorelines

Plasticrust, a new type of plastic pollution, is a layer of plastic encrusted onto ocean rocks.

The first plasticrusts were observed on the Portuguese island of Madeira in 2016 by researchers from the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre. Now, after sampling rocks along the coastline, the same researchers found that the crusts now covered 9.46% of the rocky surface in this new study.

"We are convinced this is not a case exclusive of Madeira, and most likely this new phenomenon will be reported in other global regions,” Ignacio Gestoso García, a marine ecologist who led the research, told CNN.


Testing revealed that the crusts are made of polyethylene, the most popular plastic in the world. Polyethylene is commonly used in plastic packaging, plastic bags, and other single-use plastic items. 

“[The crusts] likely originated by the crash of large pieces of plastic against the rocky shore, resulting in plastic crusting the rock in a similar way algae or lichens do,” Gestoso told Earther.

The potential impact of these new ‘plasticrusts’ will need to be further explored, but this is a new way that organisms like snails, mussels, and crabs, could ingest plastic and how that plastic can enter the marine food web. 

“As a marine ecologist researcher, I would prefer to be reporting other types of findings, and not a paper describing this sad new way of plastic pollution,” Gestoso told Earther. “Unfortunately, the magnitude of the problem is so huge that few places are free of plastic pollution.”