The Oyster House on Sansom Street in Center City Philadelphia will be donating thousands of pounds of oyster shells to be dropped into the Delaware Bay. The restaurant used to throw away between 3,000 to 4,000 shells every day. Now it has reduced its daily waste by half, for free.
‘It was definitely a win-win for us. It was very easy for us to do,” said Sam Mink, a third-generation restaurant owner. “We’re still throwing the oyster [shells] away, we’re just putting them in a different bin, so how could we say no to something like that?
“And the fact he’s picking up the oysters every day and he’s supplied us with enough containers to hold the oysters outside. That was key,” said Mink.
Tony Novak directs “BaySave,” which operates a shell-recycling program.
“The benefits are not only environmental … it’s good for climate change,” he said. “It’s good for water filtration, that’s well known.”
The bay’s oyster fishery is sustainable for now, but the future is a concern, said Danielle Kreeger, a professor at Drexel University and the science director of Partnership for the Delaware Estuary.
“One of the best investments we can make is to just simply plant shell in the bay. A lot of folks don’t realize when we remove oysters from the bay for our dinner table, we’re taking shell out of the bay,” she said. “That’s actually depleting the reefs, the oyster bars, this is actually is a negative feedback loop.”
The oyster reefs are a natural protection against hurricanes, Kreeger said. The state of Maryland recently paid $6.3 million for 110,000 tons of oyster shell from Florida to place into areas on its coast.