Life on the Half Shell: How to Recycle Your Oyster Shells

Oysters are truly a miracle food. Not only are they delicious, they’re also high in zinc and protein. They have numerous ecological benefits, and they continue giving after they’ve been shucked and slurped. Saving and recycling your oyster shells is a great way to maximize their value and benefit the soil and critters in your region. 

Save the Soil

Adding oyster shells to your mulch in late Spring and early Summer can give you garden a big boost. Oyster shells have high amounts of calcium which can balance soil pH levels. They also help strengthen plant cell walls, improve nitrate absorption and form beneficial enzymes in your soil. Lastly, they deter pests like moles and voles.

Use 4 to 6 pounds of shell per 100 square feet. For best results, boil and break the shells up.

Refurbish the Reef

According to a recent article from the VCU Rice Center, oyster shells are also crucial for rebuilding natural oyster populations in our bays. Oyster shells are the preferred substrate for new oyster spat and can help grow more robust populations by providing more area for the oysters to latch on to. They also help balance water pH, reducing events like red tides. Lastly, in addition to providing habitat for new oysters, they also provide homes to blue crabs, striped bass and red drum.

Saving your shells is pretty easy. After you shuck, pop them into a bucket. During warmer months, they can sun dry. Or you can boil them and then set them outside to dry. There are dozens of drop off points in our region if you’d rather donate them for recycling then save them for your garden. Check out this link to find a donation point near you.


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