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CBF urges Hampton Roads to continue recycling oyster shells through restaurant closures

Even though restaurants might be working differently because of the pandemic, Hampton Roads seafood enthusiasts can (and should) still recycle oyster shells.

NORFOLK, Va. — Author's note: The featured video is from 2017.

An oyster's life cycle doesn't end when you eat it. Those shells you slurp raw shellfish from, or pry Oysters Rockefeller out of, are perfect homes for the next generation of Chesapeake Bay spats.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation said even though restaurants might be working differently because of the coronavirus pandemic, Hampton Roads seafood enthusiasts can (and should) still recycle oyster shells as usual.

Kenny Fletcher, a spokesman for the foundation, said last year it received 3,000 bushels of shells for reef restoration efforts. They're worried 2020 will offer significantly fewer shells. 

"Oyster restoration efforts are facing a depleted supply of the shells needed to stock sanctuary oyster reefs," he wrote.

Baby oysters need things to attach to, to grow strong and healthy - and the Bay needs strong and healthy oysters to filter the water. Oyster shells are one of the preferred habitats for "spats."

RELATED: 2020 Blue Crab Survey: populations fine, if a little smaller than in 2019

Many of the shells CBF recycles usually come from Virginia restaurants, the release said, but anyone can participate.

If you drop off empty oyster shells in any of the area's collection bins, those shells will be cleaned off and given to baby oysters to use as homes as they grow.

The shells, with newly attached baby oysters, go on to be planted in special reefs in the bay where fishermen aren't allowed to harvest them.

The foundation's Virginia Oyster Restoration Manager, Jackie Shannon, pleaded with people enjoying oysters at home to consider participating in the shell recycling program. 

She said you can help bring a health oyster population back to the bay.

"They’ll eventually form homes for oysters, crabs, and fish on a new sanctuary reef," said Shannon.

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Here are where you can find some of Virginia's collection bins:


Great Bridge High School (in front of the school, off bypass road next to the chain link fence—near bus parking.)


Virginia Institute of Marine Science (Shells can be dumped in orange bushel baskets by shell washer.)


Sam Rust Seafood (Bin is located in the parking lot to the far right.)

Newport News

Mariner's Museum (Bin located in the first parking lot to the right.)


City of Norfolk Waste Management Facility (Household Hazardous Waste and Electronics. Open Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)


Smithfield Station (Bin is located in front of the restaurant.)


Bennetts Creek Park (Beside the parking lot infront of the boat ramp and fishing pier.)

Virginia Beach

Brock Environmental Center (The Anne Shumadine Shell Recycling Station is located on the left before the dumpsters. Please dump shells into orange baskets located inside the trailer.)

Ocean Lakes High School (Bin located behind the school on the grass, near the farthest parking lot.)

Old Donation School (The shell bin is located in the rear of the school behind a black fence.)

Tallwood High School (Bin located around the back of the school, past the tennis courts in the back corner parking lot.)


James City County Recycling Center (off Ironbound Road.)

William & Mary Campus (Bin is located near the Alexander Galt House and Munford Hall.)