4ocean – The Osborne Reef (30)

In the 1960s and 70s, tire recycling was not widely available, so America’s waste tires were crowding landfills, piling up in illegal dump sites, and polluting the environment. The scrap tire stockpiles that emerged were prone to catastrophic fires, which contributed to the significant air and water quality issues prevalent at that time. They also attracted vermin and mosquitos that could spread disease to nearby communities.

In the early 1970s, Broward Artificial Reef Inc, a nonprofit group founded by fishermen, suggested using the tires to expand an artificial reef off the coast of Florida. At the time, it was believed that the tire reef would encourage new coral growth, attract more big game fish to Florida’s waters, improve local biodiversity, and benefit the local economy. The idea garnered widespread public support and was ultimately endorsed by state and local governments as well as the US Army Corps of Engineers.

Ultimately, over two million used passenger car tires were bound together with steel clips and nylon straps to create the substrate needed to expand the Osborne Reef. Then, with the help of over 100 privately owned vessels, thousands of tire bundles were dropped onto the ocean floor.

Despite the good intentions driving this project, the artificial reef ultimately failed. Over time, saltwater corroded the restraints that held the tires together. Free from their bonds, the tires began migrating vast distances across the seafloor.

Now, ocean currents, waves, and storms turn loose tires into projectiles and slam them into the substrate of existing reef structures. These collisions can carry such tremendous force that they cause irreparable damage to coral reefs and other marine ecosystems that are already threatened by pollution, coastal development, overfishing, climate change, and severe weather events.

Coral reef systems are specialized habitats that provide food, shelter, and breeding grounds for countless marine plants and animals, some of which are endangered. They also protect coastal communities from extreme weather, shoreline erosion, and coastal flooding while contributing hundreds of millions of dollars to our local economies.

Recovering tires from the Osborne Reef and surrounding areas is a slow, arduous, expensive, and resource-intensive process. Despite the enormous progress made by professional companies and even the military, the difficult nature of the work combined with extra challenges like budget cuts, limited resources, and poor weather conditions mean there is still a lot of work to be done to clean up the Osborne Reef.

What makes cleanup efforts even more difficult is that hundreds of thousands of loose tires have already migrated far away from the main cleanup area and must also be recovered, often just a few at a time, in order to prevent more damage to crucial marine ecosystems along the coast.

The Osborne Reef is right in our backyard, so as soon as we heard about this project, we knew we had to get involved. After months of research, relationship building, and a lengthy permitting process, 4ocean was finally granted the licenses and permits required to recover tires that have migrated away from the Osborne Reef drop site.

Now, for the first time ever, we’re taking our professional cleanup crews below the ocean’s surface to help recover these tires. Our designated cleanup area spans 34 acres of seabed just north of the original drop site where hundreds of thousands of loose tires have migrated. Our crews are currently using existing resources to recover tires as they survey the area, document tire distribution, and develop a detailed cleanup strategy.

This cleanup operation is still in its infancy, and we’re going to need your help to maximize our impact. Every time you shop 4ocean and pull a pound of trash, you’ll help provide the funding and resources we need to hire more dive crews and invest in specialized equipment that will allow us to recover these tires quicker and on a larger scale.

A portion of the tires we recover from our designated cleanup area will be used to make our new Osborne Reef Bracelets. However, the condition of the tires we’re recovering makes them extremely difficult to recycle using the equipment we currently have. For now, tires we can’t recycle will be sent to our local waste-to-energy facility in West Palm Beach for disposal.

However, our ultimate goal is to partner with an organization that can help us recycle these scrap tires on a massive scale. That way, we can use more of these tires to create a variety of new products that will help fund this historic cleanup operation and advance our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis.

The Osborne Reef Bracelet is made with verified 100% crumb rubber from tires that our crews recovered directly from the Osborne Reef. From the tire-shaped bezel to the tire-black macrame cord, every detail is designed to represent the tires we’re recovering from the reef.