O.Y.S.T.E.R. Recycling Program
In November 2010, CBA and our Americorps Green Team launched the new O.Y.S.T.E.R. Shell Recycling Program. The ultimate goal of the O.Y.S.T.E.R. Shell recycling program is to collect the oyster shells that would otherwise end up in a landfill, and reuse them to construct oyster reef habitat. Oyster populations have declined in many places worldwide and Choctawhatchee Bay is no exception. By building reefs, we are providing a hard place for oyster spat to settle and thrive as well as providing a habitat for a variety of other important species. Since an adult oyster can filter as much as two and a half gallons of water per hour, it is very important that their populations flourish. Additionally, oyster reefs provide a barrier against waves and boat wake, helping reduce shoreline erosion.
To garner support for the O.Y.S.T.E.R. Shell Recycling Program, CBA Americorps members began contacting local restaurant managers in October. Most were enthusiastic about partnering with us and we were even contacted by a few managers who heard about the program through word of mouth. The first oyster shell pick up run occurred with 3 restaurants on November 20th, 2010.
Restaurants who participate in the O.Y.S.T.E.R. Shell Recycling Program are given bright blue, 30 gallon recycling bins, which are kept outside the restaurants, as well as smaller buckets, which are kept inside near the shucking station. Whenever oysters are shucked, the top shells are placed in one of our smaller buckets and then transferred to the outside containers when full. We are not asking restaurants to save the oyster shells that end up on the plates of guests, although we have hopes of making this convenient enough so that we can collect those shells in the future. CBA picks up the blue bins at each restaurant 2-3 times per week, depending on the restaurants’ needs, and replaces each used bin with a clean one.
Once the shell is picked up, it is placed in an outdoor drying area and left for several weeks. Eventually, sun, rain and time work to clean the shell and destroy any harmful microorganisms, and the shell is then ready to use for restoration. CBA staff and volunteers will shovel the clean shell into mesh bags. The shell bags, which weigh 20-30 pounds each, will be used as building blocks to construct a new oyster reef.
Since the start of the O.Y.S.T.E.R. Shell Recycling Program, we have grown to include 10 restaurants, with several more planning to come on board as soon as the busy tourist season starts. Current participating restaurants are: The Back Porch, Bayou Bill's Crab House, Buster's Bar & Grill, Captain Dave's on the Gulf, The Crab Trap (Destin), Johnny O'Quigley's, Kenny D’s Beach Bar & Grill, Shrimp Basket (Destin), The Surf Hut (Destin), and Whole Foods Market Destin. If your restaurant or one you know of is interested in participating, please let us know. Educational materials about the program are available in all participating restaurants. So go out and support these restaurants, buy some oysters and thank them for their participation. It is because of their efforts that we will have a supplemental supply of oyster shells to continue to build oyster reefs and further enhance the health of the Choctawhatchee Basin Watershed.
Thank you to our O.Y.S.T.E.R Recycling Program Sponsors!