Mountains are now skyscrapers, earth is now concrete and rock is now plastic.
There is no greater physical evidence of our relationship with the natural world than the plastiglomorate stone. Sediment and shell bound by plastic, this new form of rock is a true marker of the Anthropocene epoch, of our impact on the Earth.
It is meteor-like, coloured by fragments of packaging, rope and bottle-tops, yet dulled by them also, in the way that vibrant plastic is never beautiful. It encases and is encased by rock and sand, assimilating the landscape that surrounds it. This tangled form, of rock and rubbish, is evidence for the age we live in, where plastic has become such an underlying element of our lives that it now becomes nature.
The age of anthropocene, the period in which our lives and activities have become geological force, have had geological impact, is the epoch we live in, transitioned from the holocene epoch that defines us as alive and supported by the natural world; we are now the tormentors of it. Our affect on Earth has perturbed climate and geology to the point of changing the material that outlives us all; rock. Plastiglomorate is the materialisation, the physical manifestation, of our despotism over the natural world.
2006 was the year this geological rock was discovered, on the shores of Hawai’i island, at a node that serves as a natural site for the ocean’s foreign substances to wash up. Here, molten basalt and litter were forged together, supposedly for the first time. Binded to rock and washed up on the shores, it became part of the island’s natural land, it’s greater geography. This man-made substance, an object of capitalism and consumerism, has become literally, physically intertwined with nature, without our direct involvement, joining natural processes. Plastic’s abundance, its turn from a little-manufactured replacement for animal materials, into a mass-
produced, single-use, disposable poison, began in 1963, when Lloyd
Stouffer, editor of ‘modern packaging’ magazine announced that it was time for ‘the plastics industry to stop thinking about ‘reuse’ packages and concentrate on single use’. ‘The happy day has arrived’ he proclaimed between talks of new markets and six-figure predictions, ‘when nobody any longer considers the plastics package too good to throw away.’, a sentence now oxymoronical, that reveals the pointless greed of single-use plastics’ conception. The 5.25 trillion micro and macro pieces of plastic that float around the Earth’s oceans right now as a result of that ‘happy day’ will forever remain in the planet’s geological records; a marker of the anthropocene, a marker of not only pollution, but man’s greed.
Plastic’s creation is so recent, barely a century old, yet it’s effect on our planet is so large, so lasting. What’s more, it continues to be, polluting our land, air and oceans, encasing the earth just as plastiglomorate’s plastic encases sand and rock. This new plastic-rock conglomerate is not only a physical manifestation of our relationship with the natural world, but more so of our interference and obtrusion over nature; pouring concrete over grass, oil into water. As we continue into the age of the anthropocene, plastiglomorate might only be the beginning of a melded and tampered-with natural world, of which our involvement no longer has to be active, but can do as much damage passively. As plastics continue to fuse with sand, shell and stone, our poisons become one with the earth, inexplicitly and effortlessly, forever.