In November 2010, CBA and our AmeriCorps Green Team launched the new Offer Your Shell to Enhance Restoration (OYSTER) shell recycling program. The goal of the OYSTER shell recycling program is to collect the oyster shells that would otherwise end up in a landfill and to reuse them to construct an oyster reef habitat. Oyster populations have declined worldwide, and Choctawhatchee Bay is no exception. By building reefs, we provide structures for oyster spat to settle and thrive, creating a habitat for many important species. Since an adult oyster can filter as much as two and a half gallons of water per hour, their populations must flourish. Additionally, oyster reefs provide a barrier against waves and boat wakes, helping reduce shoreline erosion.
Restaurants participating in the OYSTER Shell Recycling Program receive blue 32-gallon recycling bins kept outside the restaurants to collect shells. CBA picks up the blue bins at each restaurant 2-3 times per week, depending on the restaurants’ needs, and replaces filled ones with clean ones.
After pickup, the shells are placed in an outdoor drying area and left for at least six months. Eventually, sun, rain, and time work to clean and destroy any harmful microorganisms, and the shells are ready to use for restoration. CBA staff and volunteers will shovel the clean oyster shells into mesh bags or reef prisms made of cement-reinforced jute. The shell bags or prisms will be the building blocks of a new oyster reef.
Since the start of the OYSTER Shell Recycling Program, we have grown to include over ten restaurants.
Current participating restaurants are:
Know of a restaurant interested in participating? Don’t hesitate, contact us today!
Educational materials about the program are available at all participating restaurants. Remember, support these restaurants, buy some oysters, and thank them for their participation! Their efforts supply enough oyster shells to continue our living shoreline initiative and further enhance the health of our waterways.