Oyster Shell Recycling


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In 2005, the EFC was asked to review the financial aspects of the Oyster Shell Recycling Bill in North Carolina aimed at prohibiting disposal of oyster shells in landfills. The bill involved an income tax credit for donations of oyster shells to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The goal of this bill was to place the shells in oyster sanctuaries to restore oyster populations off the coast of North Carolina. The EFC examined costs involved in establishing recycling programs and the potential effectiveness of financial incentives envisioned in the bill.

EFC Recommendations

Restaurants are unlikely to participate in a program that results in $1,648 in operating costs per year, an increase in odors outside their buildings and additional strain on available space for dumpsters. 
A tax incentive program that is a one-time break of $2,000 may alleviate the financial concerns restaurants may have and will reduce the administrative costs of the program by eliminating the need to weigh every bushel generated by the restaurant. 

The NCDENR should work with a local hauler to become the official hauler of the oyster recycling program. This could create public relations benefits for the hauler and could be seen as a community service project that would enhance the image of the hauler as a protector of natural resources.

The hauler could then set up a regular weekly recycling route, with collected shells to be placed in a dedicated location at a local landfill. When a sufficient quantity is collected, a large delivery can be made to the coast for seeding of oyster habitat. 

Most importantly, since oyster consumption is greatest in the fall and oyster shells are only used to seed oyster habitats in the summer, it is feasible that a program could be established to collect shells over a four-month period, from October to January, further reducing both the financial burden on restaurants and the need for large tax incentives. 

A four-month program, instead of a year-round program, could be publicized more widely because the reduced time-frame would decrease the number of public service announcements and the amount of advertising needed to ensure the success of the program.


The legislation was eventually approved by the General Assembly and the Governor in the 2006 North Carolina legislative session. The law allows a taxpayer who donates oyster shells to the Division of Marine Fisheries to be eligible for a tax credit of $1 per bushel of shells. In related legislation, the prohibition of oyster shells going into landfills was moved to January of 2007.