Florida’s “Tire Reef” Has Become an Environmental Disaster

An artificial reef made of tires in the 1970s is breaking apart, damaging actual coral reefs and littering beaches with old tires

In the 1970s, someone came up with perhaps the dumbest idea ever —  “recycling” old tires into artificial “coral” reefs.

Built in several parts of the world, “tire reefs” were seen as a way to dispose millions of old tires that were not yet recyclable. The hope was actual coral would grow on the structure and attract fish for the fishing industry.

In 1972, nearly 2 million tires were dumped off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale. The “Osborne Reef” was formed out of 700,000 of them bound together by nylon and steel clips or bands.

Nearly a half century later, the clips have corroded and the “reef” is breaking apart.

The little coral that did grow on them has been destroyed and the tire reef is knocking into and damaging actual coral reefs nearby, especially during storms.

Thousands of drifting tires are turning up on beaches all the way up to North Carolina.

The project is now considered an utter failure and environmental disaster, costing local, state and federal governments millions of dollars to clean up.

The federal government lent some aid sending military divers to remove 72,000 tires between 2007 to 2009.

This year, the state has approved $1.6 million to fish out an additional 90,000, reports the Sun Sentinel.

Still, over a half a million tires will be left in the Osborne Reef alone.

The extracted tires are being used to generate electricity – “yet another recycling idea that may be well-intentioned but environmentally unsound,” says GeologyIn.com.

The EPA says tire-derived fuels are a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

However, like coal, when tires burn, they release carbon carcinogens, according to the Sierra Club.

The folks at Geology In have a good idea. Recycle them into rubber sidewalks:

“Unlike concrete, rubber sidewalks don’t suffocate tree roots nor are they buckled by them, which could help prevent the removal of trees.

“As the Washington Post once noted, ‘Rubber sidewalks — good for the trees, easier on the knees, no cracks to break your mother’s back.’”