CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA (NEWSPLEX) -- With nearly 40 million oysters sold, cracked, and served up in busy restaurants, you're left with a lot of one thing: the shells.
Todd Janeski with the Virginia Commonwealth University Rice River Center had the idea of conserving the valuable item.
"We take them from the restaurant and we cure them,we age them, for about six months to a year, " said Janeski. "Once that curing process is complete, they're moved into a jacuzzi-like tank where baby oysters are looking for a hard surface to attach to, those oyster shells are the preferred material."
The Shell Recycling Program started in Richmond in 2013 and has now expanded into Charlottesville. Todd and partners reached out to local seafood spots to get them involved.
Daniel Kaufman, the owner of Public Fish & Oyster on Main Street, has been recycling his shells for about a month.
"We're getting the conversation started about oysters," said Kaufman. "Essentially, I'm collecting my oyster shells in five-gallon sealable buckets, and once a week, a volunteer comes to pick them up."
Public donates about eight buckets a week, roughly 40 gallons of shells that volunteers come and pick-up.
Once the shells are picked-up by volunteers, they are taken to a dumpster, then transported in an effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation says keeping the shells out of landfills and in the bay has many benefits.
"It's creating jobs down there and it's creating jobs up here in the restaurant business all the way up here in Charlottesville," said Robert Jennings, Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "Benefits the economy and benefits the environment because oysters generally produce cleaner water."
The oyster shell reefs created by the pile-up of shells help filter water, create habitats for fish and create protection for shore property owners against storm impact.
Other participating restaurants in Charlottesville are Rock Salt, Rhett's River Grill, Blue Light Grill and Fossett's at Keswick Hall.