oyster_recycle.jpgCCA NC: Raleigh-area residents will soon have 12 new places to dump their used oyster shells and help the environment at the same time.

The drop-off centers will be the most recent additions to a growing number of spots in North Carolina where the public can help reduce the landfill waste flow and restore oyster reefs by recycling oyster shells. CLICK HERE for a list of sites across the state. People can recycle other calcium-based shells, such as clams or mussels, too.

Wake County restaurants produce the highest volume of shells of any county in the state. In 2008, the program collected more than 5,000 bushels of shells from four Wake County oyster bars participating in a pilot project that ended in November 2008. This project will provide a way for these restaurants to re-join the recycling efforts, and allow other businesses and the public to drop off their discarded shells.

“Oyster shells collected through the program are placed back in North Carolina coastal waters to provide a place for baby oysters to attach and grow. Oysters are not just a food source for humans, birds and fish. They clean pollutants from the water. Oyster reefs also provide habitat for baby fish and other marine life. When oysters spawn, the larvae need a hard substrate on which to attach and grow. And oysters prefer to attach to shell material.

For years, the state has used oyster shells in oyster rehabilitation programs, primarily purchasing the shells from oyster shucking operations. However, as demand for oyster shells has increased, so has the cost.

The Oyster Shell Recycling Program started in the fall of 2003 to establish public places where people could donate their shells. The program has grown from collecting 711 bushels of oyster shells in 2003 to more than 32,000 bushels in 2007. More than 86,700 bushels have been collected since the program’s inception. CCA’s Jim Hardin and Chris Elkins have been on the forefront of the Oyster Shell Recycling Program and each continues to volunteer their time in picking up oyster shells at various sites across the state. CCA has also purchased a trailer in which Pitt County restaurants use to haul the oyster shells to each site.

CLICK HERE for a list of sites across the state