BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Oysters served on the half shell are a Maryland tradition. But saving those shells so they can be recycled is a new trend.
The shells are now actively sought by the Oyster Recovery Partnership, at restaurants like the Boatyard Bar and Grill in Annapolis.
“They came to use and asked us to save the shells for them,” says head chef George Betz. “So they provide us with bins. They pick them up.”
The Annapolis restaurant saved almost half a million oyster shells last year alone, and it’s one of more than 300 restaurants and markets partnering in the recycling effort.
“Last year we recycled 34,000 bushels,” says Karis King, with the Oyster Recovery Partnership. “Which equates to about 1,200 tons of oyster shells.”
When they are picked up, they are stored for a year, cleaned and then delivered to the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Lab oyster hatchery.
The partnership “obtains the shell, ages it, washes it, containerizes it and loads it in and out of our setting tanks,” says hatchery program director Don “Mutt” Meritt.
Oyster larvae raised in the lab are then attached to the shells, which are subsequently planted on oyster bars to create new generations of oysters, which filter algae and clean the water.
“The phrase ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ could not be more true,” says King. “Because this is a byproduct of restaurants that would otherwise end up in landfills.”