Matter out of Place (MOOP)

What Is MOOP?

MOOP is an acronym for “Matter Out of Place”, a convenient way of referring to anything that is not originally of the land on which our event takes place. So everything that wasn’t originally on or of the Black Rock Desert, no matter how small, is considered MOOP, and is to be removed as part of our Leave No Trace efforts. MOOP also includes gray water, and the particulates contained therein.

The Most Common Impact Trace and MOOP Issues

  1. Rebar, Tent Stakes and Ground Anchors
    There’s nothing that a pair of vice grips and some leverage can’t pull out. And anything hammered into the ground will just get squeezed out of the playa another day, after a series of freezes and thaws.
  2. Abandoned Art, Abandoned Camps, Abandoned Stuff
    Get your stuff off the playa!
  3. Gray Water/Black Water Dumping
    Dumping your gray/black water on the ground is nasty for the environment, and can get you a hefty fine from the BLM.
  4. Dunes
    Why do dunes matter? We share this land with others who use it, and it’s important that we keep it safe for vehicle passage by keeping the playa flat (The Black Rock Desert is known to be one of the flattest stretches of land on Earth). Dunes are formed when windblown dust bounces off stationary objects and reforms on the ground, attracting more and more dust to the pile and exponentially creating a bigger dune. A mere pencil can create a dune. Once they start, there is nothing to stop them, except us. Caught at an early stage, dunes can be stopped by simply raking them down with a landscape rake. Be sure to MOOP the area afterward.
  5. Fireworks Debris
    Fireworks are not allowed in Black Rock City; unfortunately, some folks do sneak them in, and more unfortunately, the people who light them off are rarely the same people that clean up after them.
  6. Carpet Fiber/Debris
    Carpets, rugs, and old tattered tarps are often shredded to bits, leaving behind micro-sized MOOP over large areas.
  7. Cloth, Fiber and Rope Debris
    Torn fragments of clothes, costumes, jewelry, and other fibrous materials.
  8. Metal Debris
    Nails, screws, fasteners, metal slag, beer bottle tops, etc. — there is hardly anything on the playa that isn’t fastened with metal. Whether your constructing something out of wood or welding, a magnet sweeper with a release handle (do a web search) will work wonders getting metal quickly and easily off the ground.
  9. Cigarette Butts
    Do not drop cigarettes on the Black Rock Desert. It’s not your ashtray.
  10. Glass Debris
    Broken beer bottles, broken windshields, etc.
  11. Plastic Debris
    Plastic bottle tops, packaging, baggies, zip ties, duct tape, caution tape, etc. Plastic is all too often airborne MOOP due to wind conditions and carelessness. Manage your plastic materials, keep them secure and recycle. Hint: Cut off the top of a 1 gallon jug of water and you have an excellent MOOP bucket.
  12. Wood Debris
    Wood chips, bark, palettes, splinters, sawdust, boxes, cardboard, paper, etc. Though often thought to be “organic,” wood is simply not found naturally the playa, and it is here where we must draw the line — it’s MOOP. The impact of wood is consistently the highest of all the traces and must be eliminated. We simply ask you to manage your wood. Place a tarp on the ground for your work zones, woodpiles, and burnable debris.
  13. Plants
    Plants, palm trees, pine needles, palm fronds, leaves, etc. Trees, plants, and leaves die, break, and shred, creating a huge mess of micro-sized MOOP spread out over a wide area. Factor in the dust storms and you’ve got a disaster to deal with on your hands and knees.

Playa Restoration Tools of the Trade

There is an art to leaving no trace and we lead no trace by example. Here are a combination of tools that can restore any impact condition back to its natural beauty:

  1. Magnet Sweepers (aka magnet rakes)
    If you’re working with metal on playa, you should make your life easier by using a magnet sweeper! All you have to do is roll them over your work area, listen as the magnet pulls the loose metal off of the playa, and then discard the metal in the trash using the clever release lever. Simple and inexpensive.
  2. Rakes
    or better yet, landscape rakes! Dust storms happen, dunes build up very quickly and you could find yourself on your hands and knees using your bare hands sifting for things that might well turn into MOOP. Use a rake, and pull the MOOP out. Landscape rakes are wider, can catch more MOOP, and can comb through more area. You can use the back end of the rake to cut down the size of the dune and pull it flat.
  3. Push Brooms
    That dune that you’re standing on that used to be the site of your camp… yeah, that can’t be there. The dune will just get bigger and bigger as it attracts more dust and catches MOOP. When the winter rains come, that dune will just solidify into a big dune as hard as the playa surface itself which will suck for anyone using the playa, including us. Do your best and knock it down with a pushbroom. Or have a few on hand and watch how easy it is to restore the flattest real estate in the Black Rock Desert.
  4. Shovels
    Got a disaster, need to fill a hole, or flatten a dune? Use a shovel. Leave No Trace.
  5. Vise Grips
    Okay, so you were a little excessive with the rebar and now you can’t get it out of the ground. Get some vise grips around that sucker. Give it a couple of rotations to loosen up the dirt around the rebar and then… TWIST back and forth vigorously while pulling upward (lift with the legs, Hercules, not your back). The dirt will act as bearings, working that rebar free of the playa.

How To MOOP and Leave No Trace

For detailed information about MOOPing techniques, line-sweeps and more, see DA’s MOOP Blog, or email