1000 Tyres Project

Cleaning up Plymouth Sound...it starts with 1000 tyres

Please see our Crowdfunder page for information about how you can help!

Why is the SHIPS Project doing an environmental initiative?

The SHIPS Project is a local history non-profit based in Plymouth, specialising in maritime heritage.  We have launched the 1000 Tyres Project because we have found lots of tyres and other junk while searching for shipwrecks in Plymouth Sound.

What is this project all about?

The aim of the project is to help remove tyres and other pollutants from our marine environment and to provide education and awareness about the dumping of rubbish in the sea. We will start by removing more than 1000 tyres from the seabed then have them recycled.

How did we find the tyres?

We found lots of tyres while doing sonar surveys in Plymouth Sound, with the help of Sonardyne International Ltd. and Plymouth University’s hydrographic department.

What will we do?

  • Survey - We already have some sonar survey data from Plymouth Sound that shows the location of tyres and other dumped junk on the seabed but we will collect more.
  • Identify - We will process the sonar data to identify all the man-made objects but also record the different types of seabed and seagrass beds.
  • Remove - We will remove the discarded tyres and some of the dumped rubbish to help stop the dispersion of pollutants into Plymouth’s marine environment.
  • Recycle - We will find responsible ways of recycling the tyres, discarded GRP boats and recovered junk.
  • Share - We will share what we have learned about what is on the bottom of Plymouth Sound with supporters and stakeholders.

What are we going to achieve?

  • We will be helping to clean up Plymouth Sound!
  • We will highlight the problem of discarded tyres and other junk dumped in the sea and on the foreshore.
  • We will identify new and environmentally sustainable methods of recycling tyres, marine plastics and GRP.
  • We will provide education and information to help reduce the amount of new dumping.
  • We will involve the people of Plymouth in a great environmental project.
  • We will engage the local sport diving community in an underwater project that benefits themselves, the marine environment and our underwater heritage. Sports divers will be used to confirm the identity of some of the objects located by our surveys, to recover tyres and other marine litter and to investigate any potential heritage sites.
  • We will map all of the man-made objects on the seabed within Plymouth Sound and estuaries, such as tyres, shipwrecks, seagrass beds, lost moorings, cables and discarded fishing gear.
  • We will share the seabed map of Plymouth Sound that we create with other organisations and stakeholders.

Why we need your support:

  • To produce a feasibility study that looks at more ways to recycle tyres, plastics and GRP.
  • To create training material for the divers recovering tyres and other junk.
  • To educate and inform everyone about the problem of discarded tyres and dumped rubbish and how each person can make an impact.
  • To develop an interactive website showing the progress of the project.
  • To develop an app that shows the location of each tyre or object and lets our volunteers report back when they have been identified or recovered.
  • To continue mapping the seabed in Plymouth Sound to record the location of tyres and dumped junk. With a complete map we will identify more tyres and dumped rubbish producing microplastics and leaching pollutants into our marine environment

Why Donate?

  • Help us remove a source of pollution from our seas.
  • Contribute to scientific research to promote the health of our seas and oceans.
  • Help educate the people of people about Plymouth’s marine pollution and to make more local citizen scientists.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are tyres good for building artificial reefs underwater?

Car tyres have been used as a cheap material for building artificial reefs underwater, such as Osborne Reef off Florida created in the 1970s. Over time, artificial reefs made of tyres become unstable, they leach out harmful chemicals and do not provide a hospitable environment for broad range of marine life. We still need artificial reefs but we will be researching better alternatives.

More stable and unreactive materials such as stone and concrete create more environmentally friendly reefs. Whole ships are also used to create artificial reefs having been cleaned of all pollutants they are scuttled on the seabed. Off Plymouth there have been three ships scuttled to be used for research and as artificial reefs, the steam yacht Glen Strathallan off the Shagstone in 1970, the small pilot cutter Tavy by the Breakwater in 1994 and the RN frigate Scylla in Whitsand bay in 2004.

Related papers and articles:

  • Should tyres be brought up if sea life is growing on them?

Although some species grow on tyres, tyres are not very good for biodiversity and what does grow may contain higher levels of heavy metals like lead and zinc which has leached from the rubber. One of the research aims of the Project is to investigate replacing the tyres with a more suitable alternative home for marine life.

  • What makes tyres pollutants?

Most tyres that end up in the sea are already old and well used. After a time underwater the tyres start to break down and produce microplastics and release harmful chemicals into the sea.

  • Where did the tyres come from?

There have been many tyres lost in Plymouth Sound over the years, some of the lost tyres were fenders that fell off ships while others were deliberately dumped in the sea and rivers. The sonar image below is a picture of the seabed by the Breakwater Fort showing lots of tyres lost on the seabed that used to be fenders around the jetty on the north side of the Breakwater.


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