Black Rock Resources
On this page you will find educational content about microplastics. These materials were designed by our experts at the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and Keep Lake Tahoe Blue non-profit organization.
What are microplastics?
Microplastics, in other words, are small pieces of plastic. How small are these pieces of plastic? Microplastics are any size 5 millimeters or smaller. 5 millimeters is about the same size as a pencil eraser. These small pieces of plastic are made by the degradation, or break down, of larger plastics in our environment.
Let's image a plastic bottle floating in our Truckee River. This bottle will be in direct sunlight throughout it's days floating in this river, sunlight (UV radiation) breakdown plastics. Therefore, this bottle is becoming more brittle everyday. As with all rivers, there are rocks and boulders, as well as trees and brush, so this brittle bottle is now hitting these objects, also known as abrasion, and breaking down even more. Over time this bottle will begin to break into smaller pieces, and when these pieces reach 5 millimeters or less, we then consider these plastic pieces micro. Some of these pieces are so small that they can only be seen through a microscope.
Learn more about microplastics in our region with Meghan Collins from DRI and Emily Frey from Keep Tahoe Blue in this interview on April 28th, 2020.
Check out the Microplastics lab at DRI to learn more about microplastic research in our region.
The Desert Research Institute (DRI) have made infographics as well as At-Home activities to help those understand the new concept of Microplastics. Check out these materials!
Sink or Swim? Exploring Microplastics At-Home Experiment. Be sure to have your activity sheet handy for this at home experiment, found below the video. Have fun!