BACKGROUND: The presence of trash in and around Lake Tahoe is a major concern for residents, businesses, and visitors. Trash also poses a risk to wildlife as animals may be attracted to it, mistake it for food, or otherwise be harmed by its presence. In an effort to combat trash in the Tahoe Basin, outreach campaigns like Take Care Tahoe educate the general public while clean-up events organized by nonprofit organizations like the League to Save Lake Tahoe engage the community and address the presence of litter on Tahoe’s beaches and uplands. Inevitably, some of that litter makes its way into the lake and the scale of the problem multiplies. Whether it floats or sinks, trash may be redistributed to new areas of the lake making it more difficult to recover and further impacting the natural environment and ecological systems it supports. Resilient forms of trash like plastic, metal, and glass may accumulate faster than it can degrade or be recovered. Physical or chemical degradation of resilient forms of trash such as plastic leads to smaller fragments which further disperse in the environment (Sutton et al., 2019). Such forms of plastic measuring 5 millimeters in size and less, referred to as microplastics, are an emerging area of concern in the Lake Tahoe Basin as their transport, fate, and toxicological effects are not well characterized (Eerkes-Medrano et al., 2015). Microplastics may also be present as manufactured plastic beads used in personal care products and fiber fragments from synthetic fabrics. Such small microplastics may be transported in the wind and deposited with rain and snow in areas far from their origin (Dris et al., 2016).
NRAP Focus Area Key Photo
286 pounds of trash removed from Nevada Beach recovered from dive cleanup (NDEP)
State of Knowledge

In 2021 Clean Up The Lake launched the 72-mile Lake Tahoe litter cleanup. This effort
removed 16,615 pieces of litter from Nevada’s nearshore lakebed. Total litter weight removed
was 11,821 lbs (dry weight). Taking into account cleanup dives in 2020, the CUTL team has
removed 13,432 lbs. (dry weight) from Nevada’s 28 miles of Lake Tahoe nearshore lakebed.
The most common litter items removed were Aluminum cans and glass bottles/jars. Metal and
rubber litter were the most common litter materials by weight. The removal of 116 tires
accounted for the most litter weight from a single litter type. Litter accumulation trends also
varied by shoreline use and nearshore lakebed substrate. Litter removed from Lake Tahoe
indicate both high and low-frequency littering events associated with land and water-based


Eerkes-Medrano, D., Thompson, R., Aldridge, D. (2015). Microplastics in freshwater systems: A review of the emerging threats, identification of knowledge gaps and prioritisation of research needs, Water Research, Volume 75.

Dris, R., Gasperi, J., Saad, M., Mirande, C., & Tassin, B. (2016). Synthetic fibers in atmospheric fallout: a source of microplastics in the environment?. Marine pollution bulletin, 104(1-2), 290-293.

Sutton, R., Franz, A., Gilbreath, A., Lin, D., Miller, L., Sedlak, M., Wong, A., Box, C., Holleman, R., Munno, K., Zhu, X., & Rochman, C. (2019). Understanding microplastic levels, pathways, and transport in the San Francisco Bay Region. San Francisco Estuary Institute. SFEI-ASC Publication #950.


No Monitoring Programs are yet associated with this Focus Area.