Conservationists are enlisting the help of Charleston restaurants in recycling used oyster shells. The collaborative effort between the state, a local nonprofit, students, and businesses is being spurred by an $8,000 federal grant.
South Carolina has maintained oyster shell recycling centers along the coast for nearly a decade, collecting 90,000 bushels since 2000. Those shells are then put back in the ocean for recreational shell beds. Oyster reefs support other underwater life and help filter ocean water.
Under the new program, restaurants will get large bins to recycle used oyster shells. Fisher Recycling will pick up the shells six days a week until May 15.
The state had always hoped to include Charleston restaurants in its recycling efforts, but cost and manpower made it a challenge, says Andy Jennings, recycling coordinator with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
“Logistically, it was a nightmare,” he says.
Organizers expect to collect 1,000 bushels (or 55,000 pounds) a month from area restaurants. Those already singed on include Pearlz Oyster Bar, Fleet Landing, Charleston Place, Hank’s Seafood Restaurant, Peninsula Grill, and the Liberty Taproom.
Through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant, along with support from the nonprofit Nature Conservancy, the cost to the restaurant will be $20 a pick-up. Participating restaurants will also receive a window sticker to advertise their involvement in the program, as well as literature to inform diners about the program.
“We’re going to get a lot more people educated and involved with oyster recycling,” says Craig Aubrey, coastal program coordinator for the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The College of Charleston’s Students in Free Enterprise is getting involved by talking with restaurant owners about the program and charting progress.
Restaurant owners interested in getting involved in the program should visit Fisher Recycling at fisherrecycling.com. For a list of personal recycling centers, visit saltwaterfishing.sc.gov/oyster.html