Alabama Launches Oyster Shell Recycling Program

Connector Fall 2016

From now on, the shell of every oyster shucked at the Original Oyster House restaurant on the edge of Mobile Bay will be saved and returned to Mobile Bay’s oyster reefs. The rest of the Causeway restaurants will also participate in the Alabama Coastal Foundation program, along with the Half Shell Oyster House in Spanish Fort. Eventually, it will be expanded to the restaurants in Orange Beach and Gulf Shores.

Biologists say it is one of the best things we can do to help restore the bay’s dwindling oyster beds. Such a program has been a long time coming.

The reefs have steadily dwindled, forever losing volume. The empty shells, meanwhile, met all sorts of fates, from simply being thrown in the garbage, to being crushed for use in concrete, or used to line parking lots and driveways.

Baby oysters grow on old oyster shells. In recent years, the state has spent millions of dollars planting crushed oyster shells on the reefs in an effort to provide something for baby oysters to cling to.

The recycling program is funded through a grant tied to the BP oil spill. Using money from the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, the Alabama Coastal Foundation set up a recycling route for the restaurants. Three days a week, a truck will travel the route, collecting green garbage cans full of shells. Each can holds about 750 shells. Those shells will be piled on state property for six months to “season”. Then they will be dumped back on the reefs.