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 2,000 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.


Great Bridge High School
301 Hanbury Road West
(Bin is located in front of the school, off bypass road next to the chain link fence—near bus parking.)
Do not drop off shells around 3:40 p.m. when school lets out! (Or you'll have a tough time getting in/out)

Gloucester Point

Virginia Institute of Marine Science
1219 Franklin Road
Shells can be dumped in orange bushel baskets by shell washer.


Sam Rust Seafood
620 Regional Drive
(Bin is located in the parking lot to the far right)

Newport News

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


City of Norfolk Waste Management Facility
1176 Pineridge Road
Please go to Household Hazardous Waste and Electronics. Open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for Norfolk residents.

Larchmont Library
6525 Hampton Blvd.
Bin located under the Birdsong Wetlands kiosk. Call 757-441-1347 when shells are dropped off.

Keep Norfolk Beautiful, Ernie Morgan Environmental Action Center
3500 A Granby St.
From Granby Street, take the Zoo entrance and then the first left all the way to the end to the Ernie Morgan Environmental Action Center. The shell bin is to the right of the building against the fence.


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


Smithfield Station
409 S. Church Street
(Bin is located in front of the restaurant)


William & Mary Campus
Tennis Court, off Ironbound Road
(Bin is located near the Alexander Galt House and Munford Hall)

Participating Restaurants

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


Captain Chuck-A-Muck's


Devils Backbone Brewing Company


Black Pelican
Kelly's Tavern
Red Bones
Wickers Crab Pot and Seafood


York River Oyster Company


Crabtown Raw Bar and Grill
Paradise Ocean Club at Fort Monroe

Newport News

Crab Shack
Fin Seafood
Harpoon Larry's
Pearl 703
Whole Foods, 12080 Jefferson Avenue


A.W. Shucks
Smalls Smokehouse and Oyster Bar
Mack's Barge


Smithfield Station Waterfront Dining Restaurant


Riverstone Chophouse


Aberdeen Barn
Berret's Seafood Restaurant and Taphouse Grill
Bonefish Grill
Fat Tuna Grill and Oyster House
James Landing Grill
Le Yaca
Peking Chinese Restaurant
The Corner Pocket
Waypoint Grill


Holy Mackerel
Water Street Grill
Yorktown Pub


More Ways to Help

  • CBF also collects shells from oyster roasts and seafood festivals. Contact us ahead of time and we can provide bins and signage to minimize shells mixing with other refuse.
  • 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 and Norfolk Waste Management. 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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