mi·​cro·​plas·​tic ˌmī-krō-ˈpla-stik How to pronounce microplastic (audio)
plural microplastics
: a very small piece of plastic especially when occurring as an environmental pollutant
usually used in plural
… the microplastics that have made their way into the food chain and even the air we breathe.Los Angeles Times
… the Mariana Trench contains the highest levels of microplastics (most likely from clothing, bottles, packaging and fishing gear) yet found in the open ocean, offering irrefutable proof that plastics have penetrated even the most remote places on the planet.Rina Li
specifically : a piece of plastic that is five millimeters or smaller in size
Indeed, a handful of sand or cup of seawater from nearly anywhere in the world will probably be peppered with microplastics—pieces that are tinier than a small pea and often invisible. Jennifer Ackerman
: material consisting of microplastics
Most of that microplastic is coming not from broken down plastic soda bottles or shopping bags but textiles and clothing made of synthetic materials like polyester.Dharna Noor
compare nanoplastic
microplastic adjective
microplastic pollution
microplastic debris

Examples of microplastic in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Beyond that, the synthetic fibers many fast-fashion companies rely on, like polyester, nylon and acrylic, take hundreds of years to biodegrade due to the presence of microplastics, or tiny pieces of non-biodegradable plastic. Sunny Nagpaul, Fortune, 14 May 2024 So the researchers set a goal to prove their substances don't make microplastics over time because they're really being broken down by the microbes in the environment, Pomeroy said. Julia Jacobo, ABC News, 11 May 2024 Thompson was the first researcher to use the term microplastics, documenting their ubiquity in a landmark paper in the journal Science in 2004. Jeffrey Kluger, TIME, 2 May 2024 Mice were given water contaminated with an amount of microplastics proportional to what humans are believed to ingest each week. Cara Lynn Shultz, Peoplemag, 18 Apr. 2024 Our fact-check sources: Nick Molden, April 1, Interview with USA TODAY Environmental Protection Agency, accessed April 2, Particulate Matter (PM) Basics Los Angeles Times, Oct. 2, 2019, The biggest likely source of microplastics in California coastal waters? USA TODAY, 4 Apr. 2024 Our group is now working on limits for two other domains: oceans and chemical pollution such as microplastics. Joyeeta Gupta, Scientific American, 20 Feb. 2024 Lazaridis emphasizes that these findings raise concerns about the long-term effect of microplastics and nanoplastics, particularly for young people. Susan Murphy, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9 Apr. 2024 What’s the difference between microplastics and nanoplastics? Johnny Dodd, Peoplemag, 5 Apr. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'microplastic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1990, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of microplastic was in 1990

Dictionary Entries Near microplastic

Cite this Entry

“Microplastic.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/microplastic. Accessed 26 May. 2024.

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!