Now there’s a 35-acre landfill on the ocean floor. Instead of saving coral, the tires are damaging the natural reef.
In the eight years since that CBS News report, about 72,000 tires have been removed from the Fort Lauderdale coast by military divers. A two-year operation that began this month will remove about 90,000 additional tires. But more than half a million will be left behind, damaging the 7,000-year-old natural reef.
“There are just tires for as far as you can see,” Pat Quinn, a Broward County biologist and local manager for the current project, told the Los Angeles Times. “People who see it for the first time come to the surface and say, ‘Oh, my God.'”
Thomas Pennypacker, one of the divers removing the tires, has seen the massive underwater landfill firsthand. “Right now it’s just a wasteland. It’s tires everywhere,” he told CBS News. “Now we need to correct it before it does additional damage.”
On a good day, Pennypacker said he and other divers remove about 600 tires from the ocean floor.
Is Using the Tires to Generate Electricity Another Bad Idea?
The tires are being taken to an energy plant, where they’re being used to generate electricity – yet another recycling idea that may be well-intentioned but environmentally unsound.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that tire-derived fuels are a viable alternative to fossil fuels.
However, like coal, when tires burn, they release carbon carcinogens, according to Neil Carman, a clean air director with the Sierra Club.
“The EPA needs to change its daily standards,” he told the Michigan Free Press. “Tires are a dirty fuel.”