Save Oyster Shells
The 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.
Your 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.
See the program in action on these local television news reports
WTKR-TV 3 (Virginia) 11/22/17 Local Effort to Restore Oysters
WBAL-TV 11 (Maryland) 08/13/12 Oyster Recycling Bins to Help Replenish Population
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 email@example.com or 757-632-3804.
Captain Chuck-a-mucks Sandbar & Grill
Great Bridge High School
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Sam Rust Seafood
In partnership with Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association
in partnership with Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program
Kilmarnock Recycling Center
City of Norfolk Waste Management Facility
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
Bennetts Creek Park
James City County Recycling Center
Brock Environmental Center
Old Donation School
James City County Recycling Center
William & Mary Campus
The following restaurants also participate in the Save Oyster Shells program:
Devil's Backbone Brewing Company
York River Oyster Company
Crabtown Raw Bar and Grill
in partnership with Keep Norfolk Beautiful and Norfolk Waste Management
Smithfield Station Waterfront Dining Restaurant
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 757-644-4125.
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.