British Columbia

2,400 scrapped tires were removed from a small B.C. island. No one's sure how they got there

For more than 20 years, a mountain of scrapped vehicle tires has been piled on a remote islet on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast, but that has finally changed.

Volunteers moved 2,409 tires off islet near Nelson Island over 2 days

Volunteers removed more than 2,400 tires from Nelson Island, B.C.
Volunteers removed more than 2,400 tires from an islet near Nelson Island, B.C. (Let's Talk Trash)

A mountain of scrapped vehicle tires has been removed from an islet in B.C.'s Sunshine Coast region.

Staff and volunteers with the Ocean Legacy Foundation and Let's Talk Trash program moved 2,409 tires off the islet near Nelson Island over the course of two days last month.

The organizations received a grant through the province's Clean Coast, Clean Waters Initiative Fund, which aims to support marine shoreline cleanups and the removal of derelict vessels. 

Abby McLennan, co-founder of Let's Talk Trash — Powell River Regional District's Waste Management Education Program — says funds for cleanups aren't typically in the budget of many organizations. 

"Conservation officers ... natural resource officers, department of fisheries and oceans, it's all outside their scope, so that's why they've been sitting there for so long," she said.

During the cleanup, volunteers formed a human chain and passed tires down to a waiting barge as the sloped rocky shore couldn't accommodate machinery.

McLennan said some volunteers were "flabbergasted" by the scope of the project. 

"I think a few people were like, 'I don't know if you're going to be able to move all these tires in two days,' but we did."

The tires will eventually be recycled by the non-profit Tire Stewardship of B.C.

But how did they get there? 

McLennan said the group had to speak to DFO to ensure the islet is Crown land, and made efforts to see if the tires belonged to anyone.

She says they are not sure how the tires ended up on the islet, but thinks the origins of the dump site date back to the 1990s. She's heard a couple of theories about how the tires got there, she said, but they seem implausible.

One theory she heard is that the tires were being transported for recycling on a barge that started to sink so the tires were moved onto the island.

In a statement, the Transportation Safety Board said it "could not identify the occurrence" McLennan was told about.

McLennan says she's still curious about what happened and hopes media attention will lead to "more stories coming out of the woodworks."

"They seem very sort of meticulously placed and placed well," she said of the scrapped tires.

"So yeah, I don't know how they got there. It still remains to me a mystery."