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This company gives new life to old tyres fished from the ocean

Off the coast of Florida, there sits a graveyard of discarded tyres at the bottom of the ocean. Though a collective effort to remove them has been underway for a decade, one organisation finally has a plan to turn them into something new.

In the 1970s, the American company Broward Artificial Reef Inc. believed dropping 2 million tyres on the ocean floor was a good idea. They told the public that it would ‘help the fish’.

The hope was that various corals and tiny fish would latch onto the rubber and create the world’s largest artificial reef, called Osborne Reef.

What actually happened was that the tyres broke up, eventually polluting beaches with microplastics and damaging existing natural reefs when high winds and storms strong ocean currents swept them along.

Despite over a decade of clean-up efforts, over 500,000 tyres remain on the ocean floor. Even now, little life has grown in or around Osborne Reef apart from small and sparse sea sponges.

Floridian entrepreneur Richard Spreen decided to take action after reading about this environmental catastrophe in a local newspaper. He launched his company, Echo Flow, using his existing knowledge of the construction and roofing industry.

Now, Spreen’s company has developed a unique way of turning discarded tyres into a building material that is made up of 93 percent recycled components. This material can then be shaped into bricks or ‘blocks’ that are used in construction.

Along with machine-shredded tyres, Echo Flow’s bricks include a propriety cement formula made from waste products such as silica and the runoff elements of iron ore production.

By combining these materials, the cement used by Echo Flow is significantly less polluting than standard cement mixes. Better yet, at the end of its lifestyle, Echo Flow’s bricks can be crushed up and recycled again to create something new.

Thanks to the inclusion of the tyres, the bricks also have a unique feature. They are porous, meaning that when water hits them it flows through freely.

This makes Echo Flow bricks the perfect material to build rooftop structures such as bars or pools. When a catch is placed under the brick structure, water can be directed towards a drain to keep everything underneath dry.

If stored, the redirected rainwater can be reused for cleaning or watering plants. Echo Flow’s sustainable material has already gained official certification, meeting 100 percent of building standards in Miami-Dade County.

On top of this, bricks made by Echo Flow have been certified to get 30 percent stronger over time. Traditional concrete bricks are known weaken as they age due to exposure to the elements.

Now, the company’s plan is to remove at least 30,000 tires from Florida’s ocean floor by 2024.

They’ll do well to do so, as several contractors in the state of Florida have agreed to use Echo Flow’s innovative, sustainable bricks in upcoming projects.

The material has also been patented around the world, meaning there will likely be a demand for it elsewhere in the near future.

Although completely clearing the ocean floor of all the dumped tyres is an immense and daunting task – one that the US military has been tasked to help with – having a future use for them is sure to increase motivation for getting the job done.

If building companies are willing to embrace Echo Flow’s technology, thousands of ocean-dwelling tyres will get a second and third life cycle. I think we can all agree that’s far better than sending them to landfill!