Save Oyster Shells

Save Oyster Shell logoThe Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) needs your help–and your oyster shells–to restore native oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. Donate your empty shells to CBF so we can recycle them into more oyster reefs and repopulate the Bay with more oysters. Oyster shells are literally the foundation of our reef restoration efforts!

We turn thousands of bushels of recycled oyster shells each year into habitat for millions of oysters planted in the Bay and its rivers. Once the recycled shells are cleaned and cured, CBF places them in huge water tanks containing millions of microscopic oyster larvae, which then attach to the shells. On average, each recycled shell can become home to dozens of those baby oysters, called spat. CBF provides the spat-on-shell to its oyster gardeners and plants them in rivers and the Bay to grow and expand oyster reefs.

Oyster shells are becoming increasingly scarce.  Through the Save Oyster Shells recycling program, shells that would typically be thrown away are saved and used in a variety of oyster restoration projects.

Video  WBAL-TV 11 08/13/12 Oyster Recycling Bins to Help Replenish Population

Spat on an oyster shellYour shells are used as homes for baby oysters (spat) like the shell in the photo. We place your recycled shells in tanks of water with millions of microscopic oyster larvae swimming and attaching to the shells. After a few days the spat-on-shell will be used to restore oyster reefs.

Virginia Public Drop-off Locations

There are several public shell recycling drop-off locations across Virginia. If you are interested in hosting a shell-recycling bin, contact Heather North at or 757-632-3804.

Newport News

Mariners Museum
100 Museum Drive
(Bin located in the first parking lot to the right)


Waste Management Facility
1176 Pineridge Road
(Please check in at the front desk first and they will direct you to the drop off location.) In partnership with Keep Norfolk Beautiful.
Open for Norfolk residents M-Sat. 10 a.m.—2 p.m.

Larchmont Library
6525 Hampton Blvd.
(Bin located under the Birdsong Wetlands kiosk) In partnership with Keep Norfolk Beautiful.
Please call 757-441-1347 when you drop off shells at this location.


Devils Backbone Brewery
200 Mosbys Run
(Bin located all the way to the right, behind the building)


Colonial Williamsburg Welcome Center
Near 101 Visitor Center Drive
(Bin is located on the service road across Route 60 from Parkway Drive)
GPS: 37.280507, -76.692713
see map

Participating Restaurants

The following restaurants also participate in the Save Oyster Shells program:


Devils Backbone Brewing Company


York River Oyster Company


Crabtown Raw Bar and Grill

Newport News

Harpoon Larry's
Whole Foods, 12080 Jefferson Avenue


Smalls Smokehouse and Oyster Bar


Berrets Seafood Restaurant and Taphouse Grill
Fat Tuna Grill and Oyster House
Le Yaca
The Corner Pocket
Waypoint Grill


Yorktown Pub


CBF also collects shells from oyster roasts and seafood festivals. We can provide bins and signage to minimize shells mixing with other refuse.

More Ways to Help

  • Drop off used shell at a public shell recycling bin.
  • Become a volunteer and help collect shells from participating restaurants and oyster roasts.
  • Volunteer at the Virginia Oyster Restoration center to clean and bag shells.

To participate or for more program information contact Heather North at or 757-632-3804. 

Partners and Funders

Expansion of oyster shell recycling across the state is supported by the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, funded by the sale of Chesapeake Bay license plates. Shell collection in Norfolk is supported by Keep Norfolk Beautiful in partnership with VIMS Green Team. There are many other entities in Virginia that collect oyster shell and make restoration possible, including the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program (VOSRP) at Virginia Commonwealth University's Rice Rivers Center and Lynnhaven River NOW. Learn more about their efforts and support them as they make use of this precious resource.

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