Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program adds collection sites in Hampton Roads, Central Virginia

Share this story

CONTACT: Todd Janeski
Director, Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program
Phone: 804-828-2858


The Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program, a collaborative program of the VCU Rice Rivers Center, is adding new partners to make it even easier for the public to recycle shells. Harris Teeter, LLC of Matthews, North Carolina and Sam Rust Seafood, Inc., of Hampton, Virginia will support public drop-off locations at 17 Harris Teeter stores in Virginia starting March 21, with oyster shells dedicated to restoring oyster habitats in the Virginia portion of the Chesapeake Bay.

"This is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate that partnerships are the key to bay restoration,” said Len Smock, Ph.D., director of the VCU Rice Rivers Center.

The new shell drop-off locations, which span from Virginia Beach to Charlottesville along the Interstate 64 corridor and include Suffolk, Portsmouth and Chesapeake, will help ensure shells are returned to the Chesapeake. The program is actively recycling shells in Charlottesville, Richmond, Hampton, Newport News and Lancaster County and collected more than 60,000 pounds of shells in 2015. The public can visit participating Harris Teeter’s seafood departments to drop off their used shells.

“We are extremely proud to partner with Sam Rust and VCU Rice Rivers Center to offer the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program to our customers,” said Danna Robinson, Harris Teeter’s communication manager. “Harris Teeter’s commitment to sustainability has long included sourcing seafood from local fishermen who practice and support responsible fishing and sustainable management of our rivers and oceans. The VOSRP will allow us to further strengthen our environmental commitment to properly maintain local waters.”

Sam Rust Seafood has focused on local and regional seafood since the inception of the company more than 75 years ago.

“It’s in our DNA,” said David Nichols, sales manager for Sam Rust Seafood. “We consider it a privilege to be a local, family-run business that supports the many products coming out of the waters that are in close proximity to the area where we all live and work. Sustainability may be a new buzzword to many of us. However, it has always been what we are all about.”

Oyster shell recycling provides local businesses and residents the opportunity to promote the protection and remediation of the Chesapeake Bay by becoming involved in the restoration of wild, native oysters. Recycled shells are used to create a natural hard substrate to which new oysters can attach.

The Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program and the VCU Rice Rivers Center are working to turn the remnants of yesterday’s roast into tomorrow’s reefs.

Oysters create their own habitat and provide physical, chemical and biological benefits. As filter feeders, oysters filter up to 50 gallons of water per day by filtering phytoplankton, suspended sediment and nutrient pollution. This filtering capacity plays a significant part in the clarity of the water column, allowing aquatic grasses to grow and provide critical habitat for young fish and crabs.

“This innovative, public-private partnership is a testament to the bay’s incredible ability to bring people together. Thanks to this exciting collaboration, oyster lovers can donate shells more easily and support the Chesapeake Bay,” said Molly Ward, Virginia secretary of natural resources. “The Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program and the VCU Rice Rivers Center are working to turn the remnants of yesterday’s roast into tomorrow’s reefs.”

Todd Haymore, secretary of agriculture and forestry, said the partnership will enhance Virginia’s reputation in the oyster market.

“As the oyster capital of the East Coast and the third-largest seafood producer in the nation, Virginia stands to gain significantly from a program such as this that will increase the wild oyster population, which benefits both the health of the bay and Virginia’s watermen,” Haymore said.

For more information or to learn about participating in the program, contact Todd Janeski at or 804-828-2858. For a list of participating restaurants and drop-off locations, visit