02 February 2009

Where old tires go to become sailors


This picture shows the tires of all kinds lining up the sides of passenger ferries and docks in Istanbul, Turkey. There must be a vast empire of collectors, buyers, suppliers, distributors, traders and sellers of used tires. This is, of course, a good way to recycle a commodity that would otherwise end up in a garbage dump


The utility of old tires from trucks and tractors as bumpers to protect boats and piers must have been discovered independently in many harbors of the world during the last century. But how did they come up with the idea in the very beginning? First, there was probably a rapidly growing accumulation of used tires that people didn't know what to do with. At the same time, being the frugal people they are, they didn't want to just throw the tires away in garbage dumps; very few potentially usable things were ever thrown away by those surviving in perennially weak economies. And then someone who was aware of those surplus old tires must have been on a boat one day when he had a sudden enlightment, a spark in is mind: Hey, we can tie old tires around this boat to dampen its collision with the dock!

But what were they using before then? Old pictures of the Istanbul harbor may answer that question and also establish the approximate date of the beginning of the practice of using tires.

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