Frequently Asked Questions About the SRA

Shell Recycling

How are shells recycled?

Shells are used at the Horn Point hatchery where they are aged to remove any organic matter and then “seeded” with baby oysters and “planted” in our local waterways. More information is available at the Horn Point Oyster Hatchery website. For every shell recycled with ORP an average of 10 baby oysters (spat) are seeded to that shell. If you are able to recycle both shells from an oyster, that’s potentially 20 new oysters for every one consumed.

Can any type of oyster shell be recycled?

Yes. We accept and recycle all oyster types. We age the shells before we use them, so there is no potential for comtaminating the Chesapeake Bay with a “foreign” oyster.

SRA Membership

How do I become an SRA member?

The only thing necessary to become an SRA member is to make a commitment to the Shell Recycling Alliance through shell and/or monetary donations. Refer to the membership page to get started.

How did the SRA program begin?

The Baltimore shucking community was tired of seeing shell thrown out at many oyster roasts and festivals and ORP knew something had to be done to save this limited natural resource. In 2009 the pilot program for SRA was launched.

Do I need to supply shell in order to be a member?

You can be a SRA member even if you don’t have shells.  You can also become a SRA member are by making a monetary donation to ORP or by providing space on your property for a shell collection site.

Do SRA members receive benefits?

Yes, SRA members will have their business listed on the ORP website and will receive SRA consulting, training and assistance with programs, SRA promotional and educational materials, collection containers and donation status reports (including, when eligible, Maryland tax credits).

What is my responsibility as an SRA member?

We ask that SRA members fulfill their commitments by supplying shell and/or making a monetary donation and/or providing collection site(s).

Handling/Transporting Shell

What kind of containers should we use for shell collection?

Five-gallon buckets are preferred.  These buckets can be obtained from ORP or a hardware store. Depending on the amount of shell you process, ORP may provide 32 gallon cans instead.

What are the characteristics of a bucket of shells?

The high density polyethylene plastic 5-gallon bucket will hold about 0.54 bushels of shell.  The bucket dimensions are  Height: 14 1/2 inches,  Height with lid: 15 1/4 inches,  Outside Diameter: Top 11 7/8 inches, and Bottom 10 1/4 inches.  The bucket is rated for 70 pounds but when full of shell, it weighs about 35 pounds.  These buckets can be stacked for storage when empty and are efficient to contain, measure, and transport oyster shell.  Buckets are FDA compliant for direct food contact when lids are used. Washing prior to use is recommended.

Who is eligible to have their shell picked up?

Pickup service may be available in your area.  ORP, at their option, will pickup from select accounts.  Pickup service may also be available if you are served by a participating seafood distributor or in areas serviced by ORP volunteers.  To see if you qualify for any of these services, call 410-990-4970.

How can I find shell recycling centers?

Click here for a list of public shell recycling centers.  This list is growing and is expected to include all Maryland counties in the near future.  You may also find recycling center from literature available at your local seafood retail store.

What is the best way to transport shell to a recycling center?

Five-gallon buckets not only provide a means to transport shell, but they usually have lids which can keep the smell and residue from getting inside your vehicle.  By using five-gallon buckets, you do not have to use any conversion factors when reporting since the donation submission form asks for amounts to be entered in full and/or partial five-gallon buckets.  When you visit the recycling center, remember to transfer the shell into the recycling container and retain your buckets for future use.



Shell Storage

How and where can I store the shells?

Oyster shells usually come from freshly shucked oysters. The shell will have residual organic matter on the shell which will begin to decay. This process can be slowed by keeping them cold or washing them before storing. You should be aware that decaying organic matter may attract rodents. Container lids will help to contain the smell and keep the critters away.

Can shells be soaked in bleach or cleaning solutions?

No. Bleach and cleaning solutions destroy the integrity of the shells and make them unusable for oyster “seeding.” When empty, the containers can be cleaned with any of these solutions as long as they are rinsed before refilling with shells.

Should shells be stored inside or outside?

The shells can be stored wherever you have room for them.

What is a Shell Repository?

A shell repository is the final destination where shell is aged, cleaned and prepared for use in restoration work. Currently there are five repositories in Maryland which are considered to be state’s shell inventory: Cambridge, Grasonville, Deale Island, Crisfield, Piney Point and Shady Side. Donated shell that is eligible for tax credit needs to end up in one of these locations.

Can shells be saved with food still on them?

Yes. Food or other organic matter will decompose during the aging time. Mother Nature will clean organic matter from the shells with sun, wind and rain. This process takes about 9 to 12 months.



Reporting and Data Collection

Why do I need to report my shell contributions?

It is important to report your shell contributions so you may receive credit for your donations. ORP will assess and verify reported amounts. Unless you have special pickup service with ORP, you are responsible for reporting. Accurate reporting is mandatory if you want a tax credit. You can monitor your donations through your periodic YTD status reports and take issue with any suspected discrepancies.

When do I need to report my shell donation?

We encourage same day reporting of the shell donations. Accurate reporting is necessary, and the sooner you report it the more likely it will be correct.

Why are 5-gallon buckets used as the unit of measure?

Five-gallon buckets are widely available and are almost exactly a half bushel. The bushel is the unit of measure used as the general metric for total amounts of shell.

What is a container check?

A container check is a visual inspection and report of the estimated percentage filled from all containers at a drop-off site. There may be only one container at a site or several. This information is very helpful for scheduling the servicing of these containers.

How do you make a container check?

We ask that you look at the container(s) at the drop-off site and record the approximate percent fill level from all the containers. Enter the number when you use your online donation form. When visiting a recycling center, please make this observation and report it along with your donation totals.

Will I receive verification of my contributions?

Yes. You will receive updates according to what you fill out on your registration form (weekly, monthly, and quarterly). If you are eligible to receive a Maryland tax credit, you will also receive a statement at the end of the year describing the amount of the credit and how to file.

What is meant by drop locations?

Drop location is another term for a recycling center where you can drop off shell. This location may also be referred to as an aggregation site or a collection site.



Sponsored Events

Will SRA promote my sponsored event?

Yes. One of the benefits of being an SRA member is to have ORP support and promote ORP/SRA sponsored events. We will also consult with event planning.

What kind of events could I sponsor?

Anything that you think would draw a crowd and be supportive of the ORP mission in restoring oysters to our local waterways.


What materials can I obtain from SRA?

SRA can make available table tents, SRA placards and static window clings and ORP brochures.

Can I volunteer with SRA’s educational mission?

We’d love to have your help. Email

 Is there anything I can do to publicly support the SRA mission?

Yes. ORP has merchandise that is available for sale. Click here for the online store. Some of this merchandise has slogans related to shell recycling and the SRA mission.

What is a Shell Recycling Ambassador?

An ambassador is a volunteer who does public outreach for the Shell Recycling Alliance.  Email for information.

How can I promote shell recycling at my business?

Learn more on our website and if you think you are qualified to be a SRA member email to find out more and see about having an ORP representative come out and educate your team or staff.

Maryland Tax Credit

Who is eligible for a Tax Credit?

Maryland based residents and restaurants who donate shell to the states inventory, report their donations though ORP/SRA membership, and have a valid Tax Identification (TIN) number on file with their SRA membership account will be eligible for a $1.00 tax credit for every bushel of shell verified. Tax credit will be limited to $750 yearly credit and may be claimed by only one entity.

How will my contribution be recognized?

With the exception of SRA special and premium pickup service, contributions will be self-reported and verified by ORP.

How will my contributions be verified?

Reported contributions will be verified by ORP staff when aggregation sites are collected. Tax credits will be based against verified totals only.

What if my reported total does not equal my verified total?

It is normal for the verified amount to lag the reported amount because the verification process can only take place after the aggregation containers are collected. It may take several weeks for this to happen. However, if your amounts can not be verified due to misrepresentation, estimation error or other factors, your verified totals may be less than your reported totals.

Can I be dropped from the program?

Yes, if you have been caught fraudulently reporting shell recycling, or have been caught stealing shell, you will have your SRA membership suspended and lose your eligibility for tax credit. You may also be investigated for criminal prosecution. Please be honest and accurate with your reporting.

How will Seafood Distributors collections be handled?

Seafood distributors will also enter daily totals when they contribute to an aggregation site. It is the responsibility of the restaurant to report the shell they have donated and picked up by the distributor. Amounts reported by the distributor’s clients will be subtracted from the distributor’s totals since the shell can only be claimed by one entity.