Hundreds of subway cars, that have been retired from service, are ending up on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean as part of a unique recycling project.
Recycling as a concept generally involves breaking down the components of machinery or components and either reusing them somewhere else, or melting the metal for forging something new. However, when photographer Stephen Mallon was on the lookout for a few stunning images for his new book, he stumbled across something called the Artificial Reef Project. This project was “recycling” something far bigger than batteries or light bulbs.
The Artificial Reef Project was recycling New York Subway way cars in a way which won’t traditionally adhere to the core definition of recycling. The project involved drowning these subway cars off the U.S’s Atlantic coast. In an attempt to breathe new life into the coral reefs, the government is quietly throwing hundreds of these subway cars into the ocean, and the results are promising.
It all begins with the tourism boards of east-coast states buying a boatload of discarded cars from New York’s transit authority. These cars then carefully undergo the “stripping” process, in which their doors, windows, wheels, and interiors are all removed. These stripped-off subway cars are then loaded onto a barge, which slowly chugs its way towards the deeper end of the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. Once a suitable spot is chosen, a crane shoves these subway cars one by one into the ocean.
Once these subway cars settle on the ocean floor, they act as protective coves or reefs for aquatic life. The subway cars that have been lying at the bottom since the last decade are already teeming with plants and fishes. Acting as a replacement for natural reefs, these subway cars are encouraging marine life to settle and grow. Over the past 10 years, the Artificial Reef Project has successfully rehabilitated aquatic life by dropping around 2,500 New York subway cars into the ocean.
Pollution and extensive fishing have been steadily eroding the flora and fauna on the ocean floor. Due to underwater soil erosion, vast areas that were once a safe haven for fish now lie barren like underwater wastelands. These 18-ton New York subway cars are allowing aquatic life to return to their former nesting and breeding grounds. While these cars may have offered a few nuggets of raw metal, their presence on the bottom of the ocean floor is doing something far better.