Why Should You Recycle Oyster Shells?

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Have you ever wondered what happens with the oyster shells usually left behind after an oyster roast? You eat the delicious oyster and enjoy your night while your plate is full of the shells, but where do those shells end up? It’s expected that we don’t think about it, but it’s time we start doing so.

The shells may be thrown away or ground into the pavement, but they can serve a better purpose: the oyster shells can be recycled for new young oysters to grow. The oyster shell is the most significant and most natural material for reestablishing oyster reefs, but it is also extremely scarce. This is why recycling oyster shells is essential and needs to be discussed more!

Oyster Reproduction and Gender

Eastern Oysters (Crassostrea Virginica) are native to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coast regions. Once the ocean temperature reaches 75°F (24°C), they spawn in brackish or salty water.

A female oyster in one season can produce more than 100 million eggs. Once the eggs are released into the water, they fuse with the male oyster’s 2 billion sperm.

The oyster larvae drop to the ocean floor about two weeks after fusing and look for something hard to attach to. Unfortunately, only about a million larvae survive their first few weeks due to a lack of substrate to stick to, poor water conditions, and predators.

The larvae that survive can start reproducing during their first year of life.

Therefore, oyster shell recycling is important because they’re the best surface for the spat to grow.

Interestingly, it’s hard to tell the gender of an oyster as their sex organs aren’t visible. Every oyster starts as male but may change to female after a year. Female oysters are bigger than males and are about 3 to 5 inches long.

What is Oyster Shell Recycling?

Many coastal communities have oyster shell recycling programs. After the oyster’s meat is consumed, the empty shells are reused and recycled in oyster reef restoration projects. Oyster shell recycling is environmentally essential and beneficial. Moreover, many restaurants have started taking part in these programs as well.

Why It’s Important to Recycle Oyster Shells?

Without reusing old oyster shells and without oysters producing new shells, there are not enough suitable places left for spat (baby oysters) to attach. This is why recycling oyster shells is vital so that oyster reefs are restored, and oyster spat can continue to grow.

How Are Oyster Shells Recycled?

After oyster shells are picked up from local recycling points, they are washed and set outside to cure for several months before being used as habitats for the next generation of oysters.

Why Are Oysters So Important to the Ecosystem?

Oysters are an essential economic and ecological resource. They are a valued commercial fishery and create a habitat for shellfish and fish; they also protect shorelines from erosion and filter and clean bay waters. In addition, the attachment and growth of young oysters depend on the hard shell substrate provided by reefs.

Great Examples of Oyster Shell Recycling

Oyster Recovery Partnership in Maryland

The nonprofit organization The Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) is an authority in Chesapeake Bay oyster restoration. By creating sanctuary reefs, repairing public fishing reefs, assisting the aquaculture sector, recycling oyster shells, and engaging the public through events and hands-on volunteering, ORP is reestablishing the native oyster population in the Bay. 

Since its inception in 1994, ORP has planted more than 9 billion oysters on 3,000 acres of reef and recycled more than 250,000 bushels of shell.

 Vendée, France oyster recycling

In France, the system of recycling oyster shells has been established through oyster shell collection points. Old oyster shells can be recycled at numerous locations in the Vendée. They will make certain that the shells are carried to the sea and the nearby oyster farms.

A biotechnology company in Vendée also uses oyster shells to create three different types of materials: porcelain paste, pavement coatings, and substrate for green roofs.

How long does it take for oyster shells to decompose?

Oyster shells often end up in landfills as they’re non-biodegradable, resulting in land and water pollution when the shells are discarded indiscriminately. It takes 3 to 10 years for an oyster shell to start degrading. Did you know that more than 7 million tons of waste from seafood industries (including oyster shells) are dumped in landfills or oceans every year? This is a massive waste as shells could be used in many beneficial ways. 

Ideas On What to Do with Oyster Shells

Gardening

Oyster shells can help buffer soil acidity and provide microbes and plants with vital calcium due to their calcium carbonate composition.

In addition, their texture prevents soil compaction, which can improve aeration. Oyster shells can be used as a soil additive, compost, or mulch.

Before using oyster shells in your garden, make sure to sterilize the shells first by boiling them. You can even take it further by crushing up the shells, which improves their effectiveness when used as a soil additive and in compost.

Landscaping

It’s become famous for people to use oysters to line paths by their homes or even use the shells as a driveway material.

Oyster shells can be a sustainable, affordable, and beautiful landscaping addition that can prevent erosion.

Arts and Crafts

Your beautiful oysters’ shells can be used to create crafts or jewelry after being cleaned. For instance, you may paint the shell’s outside gold to create a stunning jewelry dish. They can also be organized as a house wall accent or strung together to create a wind chime. If making tea candles is your thing, you can use the shells to create a one-of-a-kind candle for your table by adding melted wax and a wick.

How to Make Candles With Oyster Shells

What You Will Need:

  • Oyster Shells
  • Gold Spray Paint
  • Candle Wax Flakes and Candle Wicks (or Old Candles)
  • Blue Candle Wax Dye (Optional)
  • Old Saucepan and Glass Jug

Instructions:

  • Step One

      Spray paint the outside of the oyster shells.

  • Step Two

      Fill each oyster shell with water and then tip the water into a jug to measure the amount of liquid. This step is so that you can work out how much wax is roughly needed to make the oyster shell candles.

  • Step Three

     You will need a “Bain Marie” to melt the wax to make the handmade candles. Otherwise, it’s a fire risk.

You can make your own “Bain Marie” by putting the wad in a pyrex glass jug or bowl and then placing it over                simmering water in a saucepan.

As soon as the wax has completely melted (it will go clear), add a few drops of dye (optional). If you want                      smelly  candles, add a fragrance oil at this point. Blue wax is an excellent choice to keep with the seaside theme.

  • Step Four

      Carefully pour the molten wax into each of the oyster shells. Place one in each shell using two wooden skewers to hold the wick upright as the wax cools and sets.

  • Step Five

      Leave the shells for a couple of hours for the wax to harden. Once hardened, cut the wicks down to size.

 

How to Make Ornaments With Oyster Shells

What You Will Need:

  • Oyster Shells
  • Gold Spray Paint
  • Small Colored Beads
  • Small Rotary Drill (like Dremel)
  • Clear Glue
  • Red Satin Cord
  • Small Cream or Off White Felt Ball

Instructions:

  • Drill a small hole at the top of the oyster shell using a rotary drill.
  •   Spray paint the back of the oyster shell and paint the top bit of the outer shell on its front.
  • Thread the tiny colored beads onto some gold beading wire.
  • Attach the beaded wire through the hole of the oyster shell. Then add the satin cord to hang the oyster shell ornament.
  • Glue the felt ball inside the oyster shell to represent a pearl to finish the ornament.

How to Make Wreaths With Oyster Shells

What You Need:

  • Hot Glue Gun and Glue Sticks
  • Styrofoam Wreath Form
  • Gold Spray Paint
  • Oyster Shells
  • Ribbon
  • Pebbles or Other Shells

Instructions:

  • Spray paint the oyster shells and pebbles or other shells.
  • Glue the oyster shells around the form, working in small sections and overlapping as much as possible to cover the form. Then, using the high heat glue gun, put the setting on low to avoid melting the styrofoam.
  • Use small pebbles or shells to fill in any remaining gaps.
  •  Remove the glue strings and tie a ribbon around the top of your wreath to hang it.

 

Other Beautiful Ways to Repurpose Oyster Shells

There are many DIY oyster shell crafts and projects that you can try, including making oyster shell bookends, lamps, mirrors, dishes, candle holders, and more! So let your imagination fly and create whatever you can out of beautiful oyster shells. 

Some artists that use Oyster Shells for their art:

Here are some of our favorite artists who use oyster shells to create beautiful things such as jewelry, candles, paintings, and much more. Find your next favorite from this list!

Lisa-Marie’s beautiful Oyster Shell Jewelry 

Lisa-Marie has gorgeous bracelets, earrings, and jewelry sets made from crushed oyster shells available on her website. Those are head-turners and deserve a place in every oyster fan’s jewelry box!

Oyster Shell Candle Holder from Etsy

Definitely something different from your usual home decor! A beautiful way to reuse oyster shells and adds so much character to your living space. It is a fantastic way to decorate your dining table during oyster & champagne nights as well!

Oyster Shell Ring Dish from Etsy

This Etsy artist creates lovely handmade ring dishes from oyster shells she found on her beach walks! How cool is that?! All shells that you can order from her are entirely unique and special.

 

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