Last spring Lynnhaven River Now (LRNow) built an acre and a half of sanctuary oyster reef in the Eastern Branch of the Lynnhaven River using 20,000 bushels of shells saved from the trash so those shells can do the work they are meant to do—provide habitat for more oysters that will contribute to the cleansing of their waterway.

From seed to table, many individuals, businesses and communities are working in harmony to steward Virginia Oysters through shell recycling to help promote the resilience and vibrancy of Virginia’s coastal waterways.

The Nature Conservancy Virginia recycling oyster shells

Save Oyster Shells, Lynnhaven River Now

It’s a commonly known practice for watermen operations that provide shucked oysters to their consumers to recycle shells in an effort to perpetuate their oyster beds. Restaurants are joining the chorus as they collect shells and provide them to local recycling efforts for reef-building projects.

In addition LRNow, based in Virginia Beach worked with these restaurants to try to make these shells useful again, and upon receiving a grant designed a shell collection program, three-month pilot project. They enlisted seven restaurants, training their staff, providing collection cans and funding shell pick-ups. They also set up two public drop off locations as their members became more aware so that households could also begin recycling their shells. The program continues today and has engaged 25 restaurants and five public drop off locations. Additionally, they collect shells from as many as 20 special events throughout the year, noting that in 2016 they collected 3,600 bushels of shell that are not going into the trash.

oyster shells, W.E. Kellum Seafood

If You Would Like To Help, Consider:

1. Finding out where you can recycle your household oyster shells (be sure to separate the shells from your regular trash and hold them in a vented container to reduce odor while they dry out before you drop them off).

2. Praising the restaurants, festivals and other locations where you enjoy Virginia’s variety of 8 oyster flavors and who are participating in shell recycling efforts across the commonwealth.

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—Sherri Smith and Karen Forget

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Savor Virginia