Giving back to the sounds by recycling for reefs

Published 7:22 am Tuesday, December 1, 2020

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By Lily Huffman, North Carolina Coastal Federation

In this season of giving, the North Carolina Coastal Federation is asking you to give oysters a second chance by recycling your oyster shells. An oyster’s journey should not end on your table, or in your trash can. Instead, they should be recycled and returned to the sounds. Whether from an oyster roast, restaurant, or back yard cookout, every shell collected can help protect and restore our coast.

The federation’s Recycling for Reefs program provides a way for people and businesses to support a healthy coastal environment and keep shells out of the trash. The federation oversees several shell recycling drop off sites across the coast to help make recycling easy.

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“Recycling oyster shells provides people with a hands-on opportunity to help build new reefs and increase critical habitat in our estuaries,” said Ted Wilgis, senior coastal specialist.

Once collected, the federation works with partners to return the recycled oyster shells into the water where they provide new habitat for fish and shellfish. The federation recently built a two-acre oyster reef in Hyde County using 100 % recycled shell from Outer Banks restaurants and oyster roasts, collected by volunteers.

“We love that we have an opportunity to play a part in the natural oyster cycle after serving oysters to our patrons. The shells from the oysters we serve go towards creating new reefs so that oysters can be enjoyed for years to come,” said executive chef Evan Hayes at Blue Water Raw Bar and Grill in Manteo.

Oyster shell is a valuable resource in North Carolina, and it can cost up to $3 per bushel when purchased for coastal restoration. It is also illegal to dump the shells in North Carolina landfills, making the recycling option that much more appealing.

For a complete list of coast-wide recycling sites, visit New locations are being added throughout this year’s oyster season and will be updated on this site accordingly.

For more information about the Recycling for Reefs program or to volunteer, contact Leslie Vegas at 252-473-1607 or



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