Oyster shell recycling

For more information or to volunteer, please contact VOSRP Director, Todd Janeski at or 804.828.2858.

Since 2013, the VCU Rice Rivers Center has facilitated the collection of waste oyster shells from restaurants and returned them to the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay to help restore wild oyster populations, improve water quality and provide new fish habitat.

The Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program is a public-private and nonprofit collaborative effort. The program takes shells destined for the trash and returns them to the bay. The VOSRP collects from 50 restaurants and 30 public drop-off locations in Charlottesville, Richmond, Williamsburg, Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, VA Beach and on the Northern Neck of Virginia.

Why recycle oyster shells?
The wild Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica), also referred to as the Virginia Oyster, is at a critical population level due to increased water pollution, disease, habitat loss and historic overharvesting in the Chesapeake Bay. Estimates put the current population at one to two percent of its peak number.

Restoring the oyster population provides for multiple environmental benefits. Oysters filter more than 50 gallons of water per day, processing plankton and sediment that in excess cloud waterways. As oyster reefs expand, they provide habitat for blue crabs, striped bass and red drum and help mitigate storm-induced shoreline erosion. As those reefs decompose, they act like an antacid and help balance the pH in the water. Oyster shells are the preferred substrate for new oysters to attach to help rebuild reefs.

Recent harvest numbers continue to increase with the 2015 landings exceeding 650,000 bushels and are the result of successful aquaculture and restoration efforts. With proper management, the oyster population can be restored, helping support sustainable coastal economies.

How does it work?
Participating businesses store the empty shells in sealed containers, which are picked up and transported by volunteers to local storage facilities on a regular basis. After aging in storage for nearly a year, the old shells are placed in seeding tanks. The spat (baby oysters) attach themselves to the shells, which are then returned to the bay. Each shell might contain as many as 10 to 15 spat.

Want to help?
Annually, volunteers collect more than 75,000 pounds of oyster shells for restoration efforts. If all of those shells are returned with spat, that is replenishing more than 11 million oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. 

  • If you don’t see your favorite restaurant listed here, ask them to join us.
  • Recycle your own shells at one of our 30 public drop off sites
  • If you have a home on the river, become an oyster gardener and grow oysters on your dock to help restoration efforts. Visit the Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Assocation (TOGA) website for more information on how to get started. 
  • Volunteer with us. As the program grows, we always need your help moving shells, conducting restoration projects, working oyster-related events, fundraising or organizing events, and help with development of marketing or communication materials.
  • If you are a business and want to participate, contact us to find out how you can become involved. 
  • Donate to the VOSRP to ensure we continue to grow.

For further information please contact VOSRP Director, Todd Janeski: or 804.828.2858.

Restaurants that recycle with the VOSRP



Charles City


Tidewater/Northern Neck




VOSRP public recycling sites

  • Barhams Seafood (Powhatan)
  • Boneyard Butcher and Seafood (Midlothian)
  • Byrd Seafood (Irvington)
  • Harris Teeter (17 locations from Charlottesville to VA Beach)
  • JJ's Seafood (Manquin)
  • June Parker Marina (Tappahannock)
  • Lancaster County Recycling Facility (Kilmarnock)
  • Mariner's Museum (Newport News)
  • Parker Field Annex - 1750 Robin Hood Road (Richmond)
  • Tuckahoe Seafood (Richmond)

Oyster companies

  • Anderson's Neck Oyster Co.
  • Chapel Creek Oyster Co.
  • Deltaville Oyster Co.
  • Lynnhaven River Oyster Co.
  • Pleasurehouse Oyster Co.
  • Ruby Salts Oyster Co.
  • Shooting Point Oyster Co.
  • Shore Seafood
  • W.E. Kellum Seafood
  • Windmill Point Oyster Co.

Program supporters and partners

  • VCU Rice Rivers Center
  • Ardent Craft Ales
  • C.F. Sauer
  • Champion Brewing Company
  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • City of Richmond
  • Coastal Sunbelt
  • EJ Wade Construction
  • First Colony Winery
  • George E. Mowbray, Jr. Painting
  • Good Shepherd Fund
  • Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe Office
  • Gumenick Properties
  • Hampton Clean City
  • Hundley and Johnson
  • James River Association
  • J&W Seafood
  • Keep Virginia Beautiful
  • King Family Winery
  • Lancaster County, VA
  • Lickinghole Creek Craft Ales
  • Linden Capital
  • Loveland Distributing
  • Mariners Museum
  • Richmond Restaurant Group
  • Patagonia
  • ProFish Seafood
  • Rep Your Water
  • R. Murphy Knives
  • Royal Cup Coffee
  • Sam Rust Seafood
  • Shellfish Growers of Virginia
  • Signs by Tomorrow, Richmond
  • Starbucks
  • The Nature Conservancy, Virginia Chapter
  • Tidewater Fiber Corporation
  • Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association
  • Toadfish Outfitters
  • Town of Kilmarnock
  • Town of Lynchburg
  • University of Virginia
  • Virginia Breweries: Ardent, Champion, Lickinghole, O'Connor, Port City, Vasen, Veil
  • Virginia Chapter of the Nature Conservancy
  • VA Coastal Zone Management Program
  • Virginia Green Travel Alliance
  • Virginia Living Magazine
  • Virginia Living Museum
  • Virginia Marine Products Board
  • Virginia Master Naturalists: Riverine, Rivanna, Peninsula Chapters
  • Virginia Sea Grant
  • Virginia Seafood Council
  • Whole Foods Short Pump
  • Wortham Price Company
  • Williamsburg Winery
  • WTR Foundation