/ stories

Tire Reefs, Good Intentions Gone Wrong

Tires have often been a difficult prospect for recycling or disposal. They have at least historically been difficult to recycle and them going to landfill can be toxic hazard for the local environment. As a consumable on the most common modes of transport, worn out tires are generated in extreme quantities. This has led to governments pressuring industry to find solutions to the increasing number of tires for some time.

One of the solutions proposed was tire reefs. Tires would be dumped in large quantities on the sea floor with the idea that aquatic life would attach itself to the tires and marine life would increase significantly in the local area. In this way a surface pollutant could instead be an underwater support of life. There were thought to even be potential economic benefits from increased fishing opportunities.

One of the largest tire reefs ever attempted was Osborne Reef off the coast of Fort Laurderdale, Florida. This tire reef was created through the joint efforts of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber company and the local government. The tires were for the most part bound together in piles with steel clips and then dropped from the side of coast guard vessels. This led to over two million tires being dumped onto the ocean floor and covering over 36 acres.

This would turn into an ecological disaster. The metal clips would corrode in the salt water environment and leave the tires completely loose. These tires would then move with ocean currents that prevented any aquatic life from forming in the area. These tires would then get moved so far that they started to crash into and destroy natural reefs. While the tires also ended up washing up on beaches. No significant coral growth on the tires was ever observed.

In the case of the Osborne Reef massive clean up efforts have been carried out by the US government in a attempt to bring this disaster to a conclusion. Unfortunately while the Osborne Reef is perhaps the most famous tire reef there have been many others around the world. While some of these reefs have had their own clean up efforts many are located off the coast of countries that have not yet found the resources to engage in any real clean up attempts.