A barge full of tires

Tire Island:Tired to Tireless

Originally published on qathet Living

By Abby McLennan

We found the infamous ‘Tire Island’ in early June while out scouting for potential shoreline cleanup projects.

Sailors, boaters and even BC Ferry passengers had gawked at this island for years. In the idyllic waters of the Salish Sea, a small islet off Nelson Island had grown a mountain of off-rim vehicle tires.

Related: read the follow-up interview by Cortes Currents

For the second year in a row, Let’s Talk Trash has partnered with the Ocean Legacy Foundation to embark on shoreline cleanups in remote, hot spot locations for marine debris accumulation in the qathet region. Funding has been provided through the Provincial Clean Coast Clean Waters Initiative. The Tire Stewardship of BC pitched in additional funds and support for this last project.

During the 2022 season, our team chose to embark on eight project areas that resulted in retrieving 54,680kg of debris from local shorelines. Tire Island was particularly intimidating and complex. When senior project managers announced there were unused funds in the coffers, our local project team was quick to suggest tackling Tire Island.
With an unknown amount of tires, which appeared to be in the thousands, on a rocky, sloping island with no beach or easy landing, human muscle seemed to be the most efficient way to move the tires from point A to B.

Before – Photo courtesy participants
Another before shot – All photos courtesy participants
Loading the barges – All photos courtesy participants

Our cleanup date was scheduled for the last week of October. Inclement fall weather was finally upon us but a dedicated crew of 33 people committed to getting the tires moved – 2,409 in total in only two days.
The mysterious origin of this tire dump site dates back to the 1990s. For over 20 years, these tires have been abandoned and seemingly outside of any authority’s jurisdiction to clean up.

The sad part of this tale is the ongoing impact of tires in natural environments. Over the past decade, extensive research has been conducted on microplastics and their effects. Microplastic from the rubber in tires has become one issue of concern.

Leachate from tire particles has been shown to be toxic to various marine organisms including our beloved salmon. A rubber antioxidant present in tires has been identified as a cause of regular acute mortality events in salmon and these particles also contain an array of other chemicals. Although (the now) Tire(less) Island isn’t directly near a spawning stream, it is a stone’s throw from an active aquaculture lease and a concentration of debris such as this is detrimental to any ecosystem.

A barge full – Photo courtesy participants
At the dumpster – Photo courtesy participants
It took 33 people two days to clean up 2,409 tires – Photo courtesy participants

An emotional weight was lifted – alongside the literal weight of 29,800 kilograms – in bringing this island back to its natural state.

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One thought on “Tire Island:Tired to Tireless”

  1. Researcher needed to unearth the story of the Tired Island!!! So many questions!!! needing answers!! Thank you coastal clean up crew and volunteers!!!

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