We’ve have all heard the phrase, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” but New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority has turned their trash into a marine treasure.

Over 2,500 retired New York City subway cars have been hauled out to the the deepest, coldest parts of the Atlantic ocean and thrown overboard one by one into the ocean using a hydraulic lift. But before you panic, it’s okay. It’s actually a good thing!

Next stop Atlantic , The outtakes

A photo posted by Stephen Mallon (@mallonfilms) on

As these stripped carbon steel subway cars reach the darkest lows of the ocean floor they are warmly welcomed by their soon-to-be marine life inhabitants. Over time, the cars become part of the underwater ecosystem, creating an artificial reef system, providing surfaces for invertebrates to live on and shelter for fish playing hide and seek with their predators.

The Subway cars act as “luxury condominiums for [the] fish,” providing more surface area for food and marine life to grow and flourish.

Though the project ended in 2010 and no new cars have been taken to sea, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control has reported a 400% increase in the amount of marine food available per square foot. While this particular project only ran for 10 years, the changes it sparked are self-sustaining and the benefits will last much longer than that.

Restoring the ocean’s reefs helps to restore balance to marine ecosystems that have been damaged by pollution, coral bleaching, and overfishing which can allow algae to overtake and smother reefs.

Oceans make up 97% the world’s water, produce half of its oxygen, provide food and livelihoods, and regulate climate. But we’re damaging reefs and polluting the water. It’s important that we work towards restoring our oceans and reefs to preserve marine life and return balance to the system.

The benefits of creating artificial reefs from retired subway cars are two-fold. Sinking these cars is a great way to recycle them, without sinking the MTA’s budget, and goes a long way toward restoring reefs.

It’s worked so well that Turkey just put a plane into the water in the hopes of creating a thriving artificial reef and capturing the attention of experienced divers.

Now don’t you wish you could get a little subway car or plane for your fishbowl?


Defend the Planet

Old subway cars and planes get a second chance underwater as thriving ecosystems

By Daniele Selby  and  Zaimah Abbas