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February 1, 2008

Recycling initiative a success at Lowcountry Oyster Festival

A notable accomplishment by participants, volunteers and coordinators alike, over the weekend all of the oyster shells generated at the Lowcountry Oyster Festival on Jan. 27 were recycled and will be replanted back into the estuary.

Coordinators with S.C. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) spearheaded the effort to ensure that all of the 1,100 bushels of oyster shells that were consumed during the Lowcountry Oyster Festival were recycled. At 60 pounds of oyster shell per bushel, this amounted to 66,000 pounds of oysters that were consumed. The shells will be transported to DNR’s Shell Recycling and Planting Program and will be replanted back into estuarine waters along state and public shellfish grounds. With support from a recycling conscious community, DNR is able to refurbish harvestable shellfish grounds with locally recycled shells.

DNR’s recycling effort would not have been possible without the support of more than 40 volunteers from various local organizations: the South Carolina Chapter of Coastal Conservation Association, Lowcountry Environmental Education Program, College of Charleston, Charleston Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation and Charleston School of Law. The volunteers coordinated the recycling of all of the shells at the Festival, as well as kept trash and debris away from the appropriately marked containers. In addition, volunteers ensured that nearly 1,000 pounds of aluminum cans, cardboard, and plastic and glass containers were kept from ending up in the landfill. According to Mike Arendt, one of DNR’s coordinators at the event, "This amazing success story would not have been possible without the reliable support of these hardworking and enthusiastic volunteers."

This year’s collection of recycled shells from the Festival surpassed previous years’ tallies. During the 2007 Lowcountry Oyster Festival, 1,000 bushels of recycled shells were donated to the DNR’s Oyster Shell Recycling and Planting Program, and during the event in 2006, only 470 bushels were able to be recycled. The recycling effort is one step in the cycle of maintaining the shellfish resource. When the shells are replanted during the warmer months back into the estuary, oyster spat are able to find suitable shells to attach and grow, thus sustaining the resource. In addition to their consumptive qualities, oysters are also an important marine resource for their ability to filter feed sediments and improve water quality. Furthermore, oysters provide beneficial habitat for many marine species as well create a natural buffer, bolstering shorelines from erosion.

The public is also reminded to recycle oyster shells at any of the 19 coastal recycling drop-off locations. Call (843) 953-9854 for more information. DNR’s Oyster Shell Recycling and Restoration Program coordinators will arrange to pick-up large quantities of recycled shells, 20 bushels or greater, following large oyster roasts.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.

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