CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. — The Eastern oyster is one of South Carolina’s most treasured coastal species – and now it’s receiving formal recognition in Charleston. Thanks to a proclamation by Mayor Tecklenburg, Tuesday, Nov. 22 will be declared Oyster Recycling Day in the Holy City.
South Carolina has a critical shortage of the oyster shell that’s needed to replenish the state’s oyster reefs. Just a fraction of the oysters consumed in South Carolina are recycled – which means the state must purchase increasingly scarce, out-of-state shells to meet its planting quotas.
With the Oyster Recycling Day declaration, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) biologists and city of Charleston staff hope to motivate more recreational harvesters, backyard roasters and restaurants to recycle their shells. Over 30 public drop-off sites across the state and participating restaurants from Greenville to Charleston make it easy for South Carolinians to make a difference.
“When we talk about preserving what makes Charleston so special, we mean not only our cobblestone streets and classical architecture, but the unmatched beauty of our natural environment as well,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “That is why I’m grateful to SCDNR for their commitment to important initiatives like this, and proud of our city staff’s work in support of those efforts.”
“We’re already partnered with 36 restaurants in the greater Charleston area, and we’re asking patrons of these restaurants to thank them for their dedication to sustainable fisheries and restoring oyster habitat throughout the Lowcountry, said SCDNR biologist Stephen Czwartacki, who leads the agency’s shell recycling program.”
“If a restaurant would like to participate in our shell recycling program, they simply have to reach out to our program at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Oysters are hard-shelled mollusks that grow together in reef structures, and they play a critical role in South Carolina’s coastal economy, environment and culture. Reefs provide clean water through filtering, a natural barrier to protect coastal homes and communities from storms, a sustainable food resource and habitat to countless other marine species.
South Carolina’s coast is dotted with archeologically important shell mounds, a testament to the fact that humans have harvested and enjoyed the bivalves for thousands of years. Today, winter in the Lowcountry is synonymous with oyster roasts, and many South Carolinians enjoy harvesting the oysters themselves.
But oyster reefs need continual replenishment in order to remain sustainable – and the best way to provide that replenishment is by planting clean, quarantined oyster shells along the shoreline, which provides the preferred growing surface for baby oysters. That’s what SCDNR biologists and volunteers, through the South Carolina Oyster Recycling and Enhancement (SCORE) program, have done along the coast for over two decades.
As oyster populations have declined in some parts of the country and competition for shells has increased, sourcing enough oyster shells to replant South Carolina’s reefs has become a challenge.
By recycling your shells, you can make a difference toward a healthy future for these iconic Lowcountry resources.
Tips for Recycling Your Oyster Shells
- DO bring your shell to the nearest shell recycling center. Find the nearest drop-off location online. If you’re hosting a large roast, please call 843-953-9397 to find out if SCDNR can provide recycling bins for your event.
- DO separate shell from trash. Shell mixed with trash (including shell in bags or containers) is not suitable for recycling. Provide separate containers at your events for shells and trash.
- DON’T put live oysters or freshly shucked shells in South Carolina waters. If the oysters you purchased were harvested outside South Carolina, it is illegal to place them in South Carolina waters. Placing live oysters in our waters can create environmental problems and may harm local oysters or other animals. To avoid contamination, shell should be recycled to SCDNR and properly quarantined for six months.