Recycled Reefs Made From Trash

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Recycling Under the Sea Helps Marine Life

Recycled reefs
Creative Commons License photo credit:NOAA Photo Library

When reef structures are made from discarded items and trash, it adds a whole new dimension to the idea of reuse. Recycled reefs are artificial structures added into the ocean with an aim to foster habitat for sea life.

Marine life such as corals, mussels, oysters, and other creatures that need to attach to things usually fare well in this arrangement. Usually, an artificial reef will form around a sunken ship, as it immediately becomes shelter for marine organisms.

Reef Fail

The Osborne Reef in the coastal waters of Florida was not successful as an artificial reef, and ultimately did more harm than good. Made up of concrete and old and discarded tires, the project was disastrous since materials holding the tires together were corrosive. Tires making up the reef subsequently loosened and hurricanes later deposited thousands more tires on nearby beaches. Lesson learned: Tires aren’t the way to go, and reef building by tossing old refrigerators or other appliances has also not been successful.

In order to be a helpful conservation measure, items used for reefs should be as free of toxic substances as possible. Utilized properly, trash reefs are visited by many divers and attract a variety of marine life.

Subway Cars

Imagine striped bass and bluefish swimming in and out of old subway windows! The Delaware Reef Program is one part of a comprehensive fisheries management effort designed to enhance fisheries habitat and provide fishing opportunities for anglers. Recycled materials have supported reef development efforts for this program to date. Artificial reef construction is especially important in the Mid-Atlantic region, where near shore bottom is usually featureless sand or mud.

The Redbird Reef off the coast of Delaware saw a 400-fold increase in the amount of plankton and small baitfish after installing over 600 obsolete subway cars donated by New York City. Among the old subway cars, Delaware now has 14 permitted artificial reef sites which consist of concrete structures, decommissioned military vehicles, and sunken vessels. The state continues to build on its reef program with other non-toxic materials and objects for reef structures.

Oil Rigs

There is a push to keep oil rigs off the coast of southern California, and not remove them because barnacles and other sea life have made them their homes. Reefs are important marine habitats for these organisms, who gather and flourish around the rigs.

Construction Materials

Students at Gems World Academy in Dubai built 40 artificial reefs from construction waste with the support of Tawasul, a diving and education charity.

This program offers an opportunity for students to learn about endangered species and preserving aquatic life and its resources. In this case, reefs helped recycle some of the 30,000 tons of construction waste that were produced daily in Dubai. Reefs were created out of PVC pipes, bricks, and plastic netting designed to look like natural habitat. To build upon their knowledge, participants frequently return to the site to conduct surveys and fish counts and track the impact of their recycled reefs.

Further Reading

Continue learning about some pros and cons of artificial reefs in this article. For further reading, check out the concept of green burials, where memorial reefs are set up to honor loved ones.

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