Garbage cans allow New Orleans oyster lovers to donate seashells for reefs

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – An environmental group that makes oyster reefs from shellfish collected from restaurants in the New Orleans area now has a new partner so everyone can contribute.

“After enjoying oysters at home with your family and friends, you can help protect our coast” by bringing seashells to a public repository, said Kellyn LaCour-Conant, director of restoration programs at the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.

The organization has created four reefs with seashells collected from restaurants since the launch of the “Restaurants to Reefs” program in 2014.

The Green Project, which operates a salvage store and a paint recycling project, now has purple oyster collection bins outside, the coalition said in a press release on Friday. People can drop off their empty oyster shells from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.

Another environmental recycler had done this. But Glass Half Full had to put this on hold after Hurricane Ida hit in late August, according to the press release.

Reefs provide homes and nurseries for hundreds of species of marine animals and plants. Each oyster can filter up to 25 gallons of water per day. And the reefs slow down the waves that endlessly eat away at the Louisiana coast.

The coalition’s recycling program used more than 5 tons (4.5 metric tons) of seashells to build 1.3 miles (2.1 kilometers) of living shoreline.

Twenty-three restaurants paid for pickups ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic, coalition spokesman James Kelly said in an email.

“All shell collecting in the city ceased when restaurants closed at the start of the lockdown here. So we went to zero restaurants overnight, and then slowly rebuilt the program, ”he said in an email. He said 13 are participating now.

The chefs brigade, which ran a meal assistance program during the first wave of the pandemic, helped recruit restaurants, he said.

The four reefs created so far are in Biloxi Marsh, Barataria Bay, Pointe-au-Chien and Adam’s Bay. The organization plans to expand the Pointe-au-Chien reef in the summer of 2022.

The Nature Conservancy is working on an oyster shell recycling program in Mississippi.

At least 13 other states have had such programs. A pre-pandemic investigation has found them in Texas, Alabama, Florida, nine east coast states and California, said Tom Mohrman, director of marine programs at The Nature Conservancy earlier this month.

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