People dump trays of adult oysters at Great Bay in Durham, New Hampshire. Thousands of oysters were brought from Maine to increase the population there. (AP/Charles Krupa)

People dump trays of adult oysters at Great Bay in Durham, New Hampshire. Thousands of oysters were brought from Maine to increase the population there. (AP/Charles Krupa)

There’s more than one way to recycle oyster shells. (AP/Robert F. Bukaty)

There’s more than one way to recycle oyster shells. (AP/Robert F. Bukaty)

The Brick Church graveyard wall on Saint Helena Island, South Carolina, is made of tabby concrete. (AP/Bruce Smith)

The Brick Church graveyard wall on Saint Helena Island, South Carolina, is made of tabby concrete. (AP/Bruce Smith)

The calcium in oyster shells helps chickens lay eggs with strong shells. (tractorsupply.com)

The calcium in oyster shells helps chickens lay eggs with strong shells. (tractorsupply.com)

This Wellen Seawool hoodie is made from recycled plastic bottles and oyster shells. (huckleberry.com)

This Wellen Seawool hoodie is made from recycled plastic bottles and oyster shells. (huckleberry.com)

Oysters: Recyclable!

Posted: September 1, 2021

“When you harvest an oyster, essentially you harvest its habitat right alongside it,” says Dr. Jennifer Pollack at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi. That habitat is a beautiful and purpose-filled shell. What’s the best way to recycle an oyster shell? It’s hard to choose just one. The list goes on and on.

Of course, plopping discarded oyster shells right back into a river or ocean is ideal. Old shells are kind of like soil for seeds. They make the perfect place for new oysters to start growing. At creation, God asked Adam to take good care of the Earth and everything in it. One way we can protect oysters is to provide places for new oyster colonies to grow.

Speaking of growth, the high levels of calcium and other minerals in an oyster shell are great for gardens. Shells that aren’t returned to water can be crushed and mixed into soil. They make dirt nutrient-rich which helps plants grow stronger. Crushed shells can be spread on farming fields to control acid in soil. Mixed into dirt, those shells easily become microbial habitats. That means they provide nutrients for other tiny living things. 

Did you know that oyster shells make great chicken feed? That’s right. Hens need calcium. That’s something oyster shells pack plenty of! Calcium helps chickens grow strong, healthy bones. It also helps them lay eggs with tough, protective shells.

Believe it or not, oyster shells are as hard as concrete. Literally. (Actually, when crumbled, they can make concrete.) Tabby is concrete that is a mixture of crushed oyster shells, sand, lime, and water. It’s a building material that’s been around for hundreds of years. In the 1600s, Spanish and English settlers used tabby concrete to build homes and pave roads. Those projects can still be seen today in the coastal Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida. Tabby is easy to use, inexpensive, and very, very strong.

There are fun ways to recycle oyster shells too. The shells can be turned into simple soap dishes, eye-catching jewelry, and decorative wreaths. Some people even make clothes from crushed oyster shells. SeaWool is yarn and fabric made from—yes, you guessed it—recycled oyster shells.