Recycle Those Oyster Shells!

An environmental preservation group needs oyster shells. A local restaurant discards hundreds of oyster shells. There’s an obvious solution that should be agreed upon pretty easily, right?

Not exactly. The Loxahatchee River District, the group that needs the shells to encourage oyster growth, has had a difficult time getting Jupiter-area restaurants to participate. Only The Crab House has agreed to help since the start of the project in October.

“We just haven’t had any luck getting other restaurants to participate,” said Jocelyn O’Neill, an organizer of the project. Besides The Crab House, she approached another handful of restaurants, but none was willing to participate.

The practice of oyster-shell recycling has grown in the past few years in a handful of areas; the discarded oyster shells are bundled together and attached to spots underwater. They become homes for larval-stage oysters, which float around looking for shells in which to settle. The oyster reefs in turn provide homes for other animals, like small fish, shrimp and crabs. An added benefit, one that’s gotten some attention in New York City, is that oysters are nature’s filtration system; an adult oyster can filter anywhere from five to 50 gallons of water per day.

There are small programs in place in the Boston area, the Chesapeake Bay and Southwest Florida, but it’s really taken off in the Carolinas, where clearly they are serious about their oysters. Not only did North Carolina set up a number of oyster shell recycling sites (many of which appear to be either seafood restaurants or markets), but legislators also made it illegal to toss oyster shells into solid waste landfills (statute 130A-309.10). Residents and businesses also get a tax break of $1 per bushel of shells.

We’re thinking this could be a great marketing tool for restaurants; imagine a sign in the front or a line on the menu that says “We recycle our oyster shells.” It’s cool to go green nowadays, and if a restaurant can do it at no cost, well, that’s pretty great.

Loxahatchee River District [Official Site]
Scientists want you to save those oyster shells [Boston Globe]
In City Waters, Beds (and a Job) for Oysters [New York Times]
The Crab House [MenuPages]
The Crab House [Official Site]

Photo of a shell recycling area in Charleston, SC: [Flickr]

Recycle Those Oyster Shells!