DENVER (KDVR) — A new report by the Environment Colorado Research and Policy Center and Colorado Public Interest Research Group found tiny pieces of plastic in 100% of tested water across the Front Range.

Students from the University of Denver and area high schools collected and analyzed water samples from 16 different sites between February and April of this year. Those sites include the South Platte River at Confluence Park, Cherry Creek, Chatfield Reservoir, City Park, Boulder Creek and more. Students found microplastics in each sample taken.

“It was stunning to me that someone like me without any sort of background could plainly see the issue in front of my eyes,” said DU graduate student intern and lead author, Lexi Kilbane, who helped collect the samples.

The microplastics come from items like plastic bags, bottles and clothing. The items break down over time and leave tiny particles called microplastics in the water.

“They’re just the kinds of plastic that a lot of us see everyday when we walk down the creeks and we see a plastic bag flapping in the trees or we see a plastic utensil sitting in the banks,” said Danny Katz, CoPIRG executive director. “Those things eventually overtime are going to break into smaller and smaller pieces and become these microplastics.”

The new study comes as the Colorado Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which bans single use plastic bags and polystyrene cups and containers, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2024, but Katz says more needs to be done to protect wildlife and the environment.

“Are there ways that we as consumers can cut back on the plastic?” Katz said. “Are there more things that legislatures, local governments can do? Because there’s certainly more items out there beyond the bags and the polystyrene cups and containers.”