There are some things that rubber tires are perfect for, like driving cars and creating playground equipment, but if used for other things, like artificial reefs, they can lead to disaster.

One artificial reef project gone wrong has called in the US Army and Navy to remove tires from the ocean, according to an article on

"U.S. Army and Navy salvage divers, as part of their annual training exercises, began removing the tires Monday, said William Nuckols, coordinator for Coastal America, a federal government group involved in organizing the cleanup."

Back in the ‘70s, scientists thought that it would be a good idea to dump tires in the ocean to establish an artificial reef, so they dumped an estimated two million of them off the coast of Florida near Fort Lauderdale. Ten years later, they found that nothing was growing on or near the tires. Some of them were even breaking free from the nylon and steel that kept them together and washing up on the beaches.

According to an article in the Washington Post from last year:

"What happened instead is a vast underwater dump -- a spectacular disaster spawned from good intentions. Today there are no reefs, no fishy throngs, just a lifeless underwater gloom of haphazardly dropped tires stretching across 35 acres of ocean bottom."

People involved in the project estimate that it will take about three years before the salvage divers can take all of the tires out of the water. Then they will be burned, creating energy for a power plant in Georgia, the CNN article reports.

With so many reefs threatened by global warming, pollution, and overfishing, the idea to create artificial reefs seemed like a good one. Scientists know that sunken ships attract marine life, but tires just don’t have the same draw. Lesson learned: just because playground-going kids like tires doesn’t mean ocean creatures will.

Story by Susan Cosier. This article originally appeared in Plenty in June 2007.

Copyright Environ Press 2007

Tired reef
Scientists know that sunken ships attract marine life, but tires just don't have the same draw.