Preserving the Environment

Why Is This Kitchen Trash Being Dumped onto Louisiana’s Coast?

July 14, 2014
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Why Is This Kitchen Trash Being Dumped onto Louisiana’s Coast?
According to the Oyster Recovery Partnership, oyster shells are the best material to use when raising new oysters and restoring oyster reefs. Getty Images
The surprising second life of this shucked seafood.

Whether you have a taste for them or not, the oyster is one of nature’s most amazing creatures.

These humble pearl-makers are not just a briny delicacy, they also keep our oceans clean as all-natural filters: an acre of oysters can filter 140 million gallons of water an hour, removing 3,000 pounds of nitrogen a year.

And after they’re shucked and slurped by the dozen, their empty shells also have a remarkable use. According to the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP), they are the best material to use when raising new oysters and restoring oyster reefs. As ORP executive director Stephan Abel says in the video below, “Each shell can be home to 10 new oysters when recycled and replanted.”

At the moment, the number of oysters being removed from the Louisiana coast is greater than what is being returned. To make up for this deficit, several restaurants in New Orleans are cutting down on their waste by returning the ones that patrons toss to the Gulf Coast, Good News Network reports.

“The main reason we want to be involved in recycling oyster shells is because we’re such a large user of the resource,” said Paul Rotner, chief operating officer of Acme Oyster House in New Orleans. “It’s in our best interest. We need the shells in order to enrich the life span of our current oyster beds and to build new reefs.”

MORE: Kelp: The Sea Weed That Could Save Mankind

Thanks to a $1 million donation from Shell Oil Company, the state has kicked off its first formal oyster shell recycling program for New Orleans restaurants, according to a press release from The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana (CRCL).

Considering the amount of oysters that seafood restaurants go through in a day, that’s a lot of shells being diverted from landfills. In a single weekend, the coalition collected more than 19,000 pounds of shells from Acme Oyster House, the Bourbon House, Redfish Grill, Peche Seafood Grill, Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar and Lüke.

Hilary Collis, the restoration program director of CRCL told NOLA.com that the organization plans on returning about 1,500 tons of oyster shell to Louisiana’s coast each year. These shells will help strengthen existing reefs and build new ones, all while protecting the coast and provide habitats for a number of other ocean creatures, such as fish and crabs.

So the next time you find yourself down on the Gulf Coast, slurp away!

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