Oyster shell recycling efforts have resulted in the collection of more than 7,000 bushels of oyster shells this season, with a few months of collection opportunities remaining.
By encouraging the public to recycle their shells, the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is able to refurbish harvestable public shellfish grounds with locally recycled shells. With help from a recycling conscious community, DNR has ensured that at least 7,000 bushels of locally recycled shells this season will be replanted back into their estuarine environment when warmer months arrive and oysters begin to spawn. Program coordinators expect to surpass the 10,000-bushel mark of shells collected before the end of shellfish season in May.
For more information and to arrange for a pick-up of shells for recycling, call the DNR’s Shell Recycling and Planting Program for detailed shellfish harvesting maps and directions to a recycling drop-off location nearest you or call (843) 953-9854.
Just recently, the Lowcountry Oyster Festival at Boone Hall contributed more than 1,000 bushels of recycled shells to DNR’s Shell Recycling and Planting Program. Jason Comer, assistant program coordinator, relied on the hands of over 30 supportive volunteers during the festival to ensure that trash was kept out of the recycled oyster shells during the festivities. Volunteers included members of South Carolina Lowcountry Environmental Education Program, College of Charleston Environmental Law Society, Coastal Conservation League Student Chapter and Surfrider group. Last year’s festival contributed only 450 bushels of recycled shells, largely due to trash separation problems.
In addition to large-scale oyster roasts, DNR program coordinators encourage recycling of shells of any amount. While Comer and crew will pick-up recycled shells from oyster roasts totaling 20 bushels or more, the public is reminded of the 18 recycling drop-off bins located in coastal counties. This year, two new oyster shell recycling locations have been added; Charlie Brown Seafood on Rivers Avenue in North Charleston, as well as a trailer near Bluffton Oyster Company in Bluffton.
Andy Jennings, DNR Shell Recycling and Restoration Program coordinator Andy Jennings, emphasizes the importance of recycling shells: “While we replant all of the shells that are recycled locally in South Carolina, it is still not enough to replenish all of the shellfish grounds each year,” Jennings said. The closure of oyster canneries and shucking houses over the past few decades, in addition to the growing popularity of backyard oyster roasts has contributed to a greater demand for locating shells suitable for replenishing public shellfish beds. More than 29,000 bushels of shells were purchased from the Gulf area in preparation for enhancing public harvesting areas last year. Only after these shells have been cleaned and quarantined, a preventative measure for keeping non-native pathogens from entering local waters, are they then able to be replanted within coastal shellfish grounds.
Bushels of recycled oyster shells from previous years: