ON THE SANDY embayments rimming the southwestern English coastline, beachcombers can find a wide array of stones, from tiny pebbles to hefty paperweights, strewn amidst the flotsam. They’re a rather unremarkable looking bunch; a palette of grays offset with the occasional swirl of color, smooth on their surfaces and rounded at the corners.
But start picking them up and handling them, and you’ll soon discover that some of these seemingly nondescript rocks aren’t rocks at all.
This is pyroplastic—a newly described form of plastic pollution that was transformed by fire. Even geologists are often confounded by its appearance. To Andrew Turner, an environmental scientist at the University of Plymouth who described the substance in a recent paper in Science of the Total Environment, that suggests pyroplastics may be hiding in plain sight all over the world.
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