Along the East Cost, including Environment Memo’s HQ state of North Carolina, there’s a big need to rebuild the oyster beds.

One way to do that is detailed here by the NC Division of Marine Fisheries, which states

North Carolina is launching an innovative recycling program to collect oyster shells from individuals and businesses and place them back overboard to help turn the tide on declining oyster stocks.

A mound of oyster shells placed in brackish water with good tidal flow will quickly become colonized by a multitude of marine organisms, including oysters. This mound, also called an oyster reef, serves a number of purposes – first and foremost, it helps produce oysters.

So there’s a North Carolina Oyster Shell Recycling Program, with motto

If you shuck it, don’t chuck it!

The state bans disposal of oyster shells in landfills, and has special bins at recycling centers around the state. After enough shells collect in these bins, the state plans to take the shells to help rebuild the oyster beds.

However, the program seems to be suffering from growing pains. It is not sufficiently widespread, and there may be institutional inertia to overcome.

Needs for spreading the word have become apparent–a friend, who has a number of bushels of oyster shells in a trailer at this writing, has found that while he can purchase, eat and share oysters with friends in Orange County, NC, the Orange County recycling operation is not on the the list of recycling centers that will hold these shells for the state.  This state-of-affairs is quite curious, given that Orange County is home to many forward-thinking people both locally and at the University of North Carolina. It’s only temporary storage, after all.

Another issue appears to be one of territoriality.  My friend tried to take the shells to a nearby county’s (Durham County, NC) site, which has the state bins for oyster shells, but was turned away because he is not a resident of that county.  I’d think  most counties would want to participate in something as important as helping rebuild the state’s oyster beds (and oyster industry), and would make an exception for non-residents. It’s only temporary storage, after all.


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