Recycling oyster shells in Charleston, SC

Barrier Island Oyster Co.’s Sea Cloud oysters | Photo by the CHStoday team

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#DYK that today is National Oyster Day? I’m sure I’m not only speaking for myself when I say that this is a very important holiday here in the Lowcountry. 🦪

Oysters not only play a vital part in the social lives + outdoor gatherings of Charlestonians – they also play a major role in our ocean’s ecosystem.

These slimy shellfish filter sea water, create reefs that act as habitats for other creatures and reduce erosion, and serve as food for both humans + animals.

While you may have already known this about one of the Lowcountry’s favorite shellfish, did you also know that we can help oysters help the environment by recycling their shells

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) established an Oyster Shell Recycling Program to encourage SC oyster connoisseurs to play a part in rebuilding reefs.

By collecting used shells, SCDNR’s team redistributes them along shorelines where the shells will continue to regrow + rebuild oyster reefs, which serve as water filters + habitats for other sea creatures. Eventually, the recycled shells will promote new growth of oysters. 

The best part? SCDNR makes recycling shells super easy by providing a virtual oyster recycling location map that shows drop-offs near you. Once you click on a location, an address will populate along with very detailed information on where the actual bin is located + what it looks like, making it incredibly easy to find.

SCDNR’s oyster recycling location map | Photo via SCDNR

So, next time you host a socially distant oyster roast, make sure to gather up the used shells and have a recycling plan in place. And before you go to the nearest bin, check out these do’s + don’ts of oyster shell recycling provided by SCDNR: 

 ○ DO separate the shell from other trash.

○ DO dump shells from bags + containers and leave only the shell in the bin.

○ DO bring your shells to the nearest shell recycling center. If you cannot find one near you, call (843)-953-9379.

○ DON’T put live oysters back in SC oceans. If the oysters purchased were harvested outside of the state, it’s illegal to put them back into SC waters, as it can create environmental problems to the ocean + sea creatures.

○ DON’T put freshly shucked oysters’ shells in SC waters. The DNR must quarantine shells for 6 months before redistributing them back into the ocean to make sure they’re clean of any possible disease or contamination.