Shell Recycling Programs

The Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program (VOSRP) is a collaborative, community-based restoration program managed by the Virginia Commonwealth University Rice Rivers Center to collect waste oyster shell from businesses and the public and divert it back into the Chesapeake Bay in support of oyster reef restoration.

The Rice Rivers Center at VCU is a field-based education and research facility charged with connecting students and the public to riverine and estuarine ecosystems, restoration and policy. The VOSRP recycles shell from more than 60 Virginia restaurants, 30 seafood retailers and the general public, and returns it to the Chesapeake Bay as part of the VCU’s Virginia oyster restoration efforts. The program actively recycles shells in Woodbridge, Charlottesville, Richmond, Henrico County, Fredericksburg, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, Tappahannock and Kilmarnock on the Northern Neck. Once the annual volume collected, it is seeded with baby oysters (spat) at their commercial-grade, spat setting facility on Gwynn’s Island, where the program returns millions of oysters onto sanctuary sites in the Bay.

Their remote setting facility has been arranged through a mutually beneficial partnership with the commercial seafood industry, J&W Seafood-Island Seafood. Due to their interest in ensuring a sustainable seafood industry, they have generously donated the use of their site to assist in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, providing the VCU with significant output capacity for spat on shell facility in the Commonwealth for restoration purposes. The location of the facility resides in the greater Piankatank River watershed and in one of the target communities for a concentrated outreach effort, Mathews County.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has had a shell recycling program in Virginia for more than 10 years, collecting shells from drop-sites, restaurants and events. Through their Save Oyster Shells recycling program, the shells are collected and ultimately returned to the CBF Restoration Center, and used for spat on shell production and other restoration projects. CBF programs are mostly volunteer based with some staff doing pick ups with a trailer as needed. CBF has several drop-off locations, where volunteers drop shells after collecting them from restaurants.

Virginia Beach:
Lynnhaven River Now has the Save Oyster Shells (S.O.S.) program in Virginia Beach, which benefits the Lynnhaven River. There are currently five drop sites in the Virginia Beach area and collections of shell from more than 20 restaurants. The program offers summer internships.

Oyster Restoration Projects

Virginia Beach, Lynnhaven River and Crystal Lake have oyster gardening programs.

Lafayette River has a collaboration with NOAA to create reefballs

Piankatank River planted 1 million cultchless oysters, working with The Nature Conservancy and CBF.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Oyster Restoration Efforts