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Plastitar: a new form of environmental pollution discovered
14 June, 16:52
Science
Plastitar: a new form of environmental pollution discovered
Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP via Getty Images
It is a mixture of resins from oil spills and microplastics.

Researchers working in the Canary Islands have coined a term for a previously unknown type of marine pollution - plastitar (plastitar, from plastic and tar (resin). The discovery was made by employees of the University of La Laguna in Tenerife: studying the wild beach of Playa Grande, they continually bumped into lumps of hardened resin, studded with tiny multi-colored pieces of plastic.

Marine pollution generated by plastics comes in many forms, from pyroplasts, molten plastic that resembles pebbles, to plastiglomerates, which are a combination of molten plastic, beach sediments, and fragments of basaltic lava. But plastitar, or a combination of two pollutants, tar and microplastics, is a fundamentally new type of marine pollution, according to Nature World News.

The sources of plastitar are oil and plastic waste. When the remains of oil spills in the ocean evaporate and weather, they are washed ashore in the form of tar balls, and if there are rocks, as in the Canaries, they stick to them. Then plastic debris is washed ashore in waves: the remains of fishing tackle, bottles, polyester and nylon, and this in turn sticks to the resin. Over time, these fragments harden and the microplastic fuses with the resin.

Researchers have found plastitar on the shores of several Canary Islands, including Lanzarote, Hierro, Tenerife, and in some places it was found in more than half of the area. According to scientists, such severe pollution can be explained by the fact that busy routes of oil tankers pass by the archipelago. However, the distribution of plastitar is certainly not limited to the Canary Islands, it must exist throughout the world.

More research is needed to confirm the environmental impact of plastitar. But in theory, the combination of hydrocarbons and microplastics could emit toxic chemicals that are deadly to organisms like algae, and thus affect the health of the marine ecosystem as a whole.

This discovery once again confirms the existence of a global cycle of plastic that has penetrated the atmosphere, oceans and land, and even joined natural processes like the carbon cycle. The ubiquity of plastic means that it can affect the environment in ways not yet known, and the fact that it is becoming part of new formations is evidence of this.