If you’re having oysters over the holidays, recycle the shells for new reefs

Jill Howell of Sound Rivers drops off shell in Wanchese following an oyster roast. [N.C. Coastal Federation photo]

The North Carolina Coastal Federation is giving oyster shells from oyster roasts, restaurant and backyard cookouts a second life through its Recycling for Reefs program.

Rather than hauling those shells to the trash, which is illegal, there are several shell recycling drop-off sites across the coast to help make recycling easy, and cut costs for coastal restoration.

Oyster shell can cost up to $3 per bushel for restoration projects.

After the recycled shell is collected, the federation works with partners to return the recycled oyster shells to the water where they provide new habitat for fish and shellfish.

In Dare County you can drop off shells at the Kill Devil Hills Recycling Center, The Nature Conservancy at Nags Head Woods, Jockey’s Ridge State Park in Nags Head, and the N.C. Coastal Federation office at Wanchese Marine Industrial Park. Duck Town Park will have collection buckets in the playground parking lot near the shed through Monday, November 30.

For a complete list of coast wide recycling sites, visit nccoast.org/shellrecycling. The site will be updated as new locations are added throughout year’s oyster season.

“Recycling oyster shells provides people with a hands-on opportunity to help build new reefs and increase critical habitat in our estuaries,” said Ted Wilgis, senior coastal specialist for the federation.

The federation recently built a 2-acre oyster reef in Hyde County using recycled shell that volunteers collected from Outer Banks restaurants and oyster roasts.

“We love that we have an opportunity to play a part in the natural oyster cycle after serving oysters to our patrons. The shells from the oysters we serve go towards creating new reefs so that oysters can be enjoyed for years to come,” said executive chef Evan Hayes at Bluewater Raw Bar and Grill in Manteo.

For more information about the Recycling for Reefs program or to volunteer please contact Leslie Vegas at 252-473-1607 or lesliev@nccoast.org.