New Bins Let New Orleans' Residents Recycle Oyster Shells for Reefs

Two nonprofit groups came together to expand a shell recycling program that previously worked exclusively with restaurants. 

Oysters are synonymous with the state of Louisiana. In fact, Louisiana is the number one producer of oysters in the nation, producing about one-third of the country's oysters. Pick any restaurant, and you're likely to find fresh Gulf oysters served raw on the half-shell, fried up in a po'boy, or charbroiled for Oysters Rockefeller. Outside of being a dinner table staple, oysters also play an important role in maintaining the balance of marine ecosystems and coastal habitats.

Two Louisiana environmental groups, the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana and The Green Project, are now working together to make sure the millions of oyster shells leftover from people's dinner tables don't go to waste.

Expanding on the Coalition's Restaurants to Reefs program that organizes oyster shell recycling to create reefs in waterways around the state, The Green Project is now giving the public a chance to get involved by dropping off their oyster shells in special bins located outside their salvage store and paint recycling facility.

People can drop off their shells from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.

Since its founding in 2014, Restaurants to Reefs has collected more than 5,000 tons or 10 million pounds of shells from 31 New Orleans restaurants. The recycling effort has produced four reefs in Biloxi Marsh, Barataria Bay, Pointe-au-Chine, and Adam's Bay for a total of 1.3 miles of living shoreline.

These reefs provide homes for hundreds of marine plant and animal species. The oysters that make up the reefs help to maintain a stable ecosystem by each filtering approximately 1.3 gallons of water per hour to reduce excess algae and sediment.

With continued shell donations from local restaurants, plus increased donations from the new public drop-off site, the organizations hope to expand the Point-au-Chien reef by summer 2022.

A way to give back that involves slurping down fresh oysters by the dozen? Count us in!

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