With the sad news that the Great Barrier Reef is well on its way to dying after living for 25 million years, it’s even more important for underwater ecosystems to continue to thrive as much as possible, even if that means making use of unlikely materials.

Subway Cars And Planes: Repurposed Into Thriving Underwater Ecosystems

New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority has taken this task very seriously and turned their trash into the ocean’s treasure. The city has retired and gutted over 2,500 subway cars over the 10-year period that the project ran and has seem some amazing results.

Marine life did their part and built beautiful ecosystems inside the empty cars that are unbelievable. The walls have provided sufficient space for invertebrates and reef systems to develop. Fish can even enter through windows and doors to hide from their predators.

Credit: David Doubilet

sub3Credit: Amorq

The cars have been described by the artificial reef program manager for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, Jeff Tinsman, as “luxury condominiums for fish.” They were mostly sent to Delaware and New Jersey to be thrown into the sea and into barren stretches of ocean floor.


The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control reported a 400% increase in the amount of marine food available per square foot in the surrounding area. Pollution, coral bleaching, and overfishing have all contributed to the destruction of these areas, but the empty cars are helping to rebuild them. Though the project ended several years ago, the positive effects will last much longer.

Credit: Rich Galiano

Sinking the cars is a great way to recycle these materials, and Turkey was so inspired by this project that they recently sunk an empty plane into the ocean to serve the same purpose.

Credit: Tim Shaffer

Oceans make up 97% of the world’s water, provide food, allow people to maintain their livelihoods, regulate climate, and produce half of the world’s oxygen. It’s extremely important, but it’s taken for granted and the ecosystems are so easily destroyed without care.

*Article originally appeared at True Activist.