Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Recycled Oysters

Back in Kentucky we met a fellow Looper, Susan, who was doing a survey: "Where can you find recycling facilities along the Great Loop?"

The spark for her study: Recycling programs vary from state to state and from town to town. Susan was tired of having bags of cans and bottles pile up on on her boat as she visited marina after marina that turned out NOT to recycle. She hoped she could create a guide, so Loopers of the future would know where and when they would be able to recycle.

Wow!  Eat oysters AND help the environment!
With that in mind, now we're on Jekyll Island, in Georgia and, checking our little tourist map, we saw an area labelled "Recycling Park."

We figured it was either the world's most unusual amusement park (just picture the rides!) OR a garden with public sculpture made from recycled soda bottles OR a place to turn in your cans and bottles.  We hopped on our bikes to check it out.

It was, indeed, a clean and neat little place for recycling cans and bottles, under a canopy of live oaks picturesquely draped with Spanish moss, all the different bins sporting colorful, freshly painted signs.  And it was something more.  This was an official "osyter shell recycling station."

Just like sorting green glass, brown glass, and clear glass:
separate bins for fresh oyster shell, cured shell, and bagged shell
Georgia's Marine Extension Service has set up four shell recycling centers in the state (including the one here).

It's just like recycling glass beer bottles into new bottles, or recycling cardboard into MORE cardboard.  The shells go to make MORE oysters.

The way it works:  Oysters can only grow in places where there's something hard to attach to--preferably, a nice old, empty oyster shell. So dumping oyster shells back in the water, after you've had an oyster feast, helps the succulent shellfish out quite a bit.

People here in the low country like to have "oyster roasts," filling the niche of barbecue in Texas and spiedies in Upstate New York.  Before the recycling program got going, the shells just ended up in landfills.  Now, they'll get spread in the right places, to help new oysters grow.

A healthy crop of oysters growing along your coast is a good thing, not just because they're tasty but because, as filter feeders, they clean the water quite nicely.  At the same time, oyster reefs create habitat for shrimp, crabs, and young fish. Talk about your win-win scenario.

Funny thing: Years ago, when I was freelancing full time, I did some work as a subcontractor for the syndicated radio program, "The Osgood File."  One story I researched was about on an oyster-shell recycling program in South Carolina.

So I'd done all this research and interviewed all these people involved in the program: the biologist, the state official, an oysterman, the guy who drives the oyster shell dump truck, a restaurant owner, an interested citizen.

Still, it was a fun little jolt to finally SEE something that previously, I knew about only from book larnin' (and long-distance phone calls).

This calls for additional experiential learning!  Note to self: Obtain more oysters--in order to make a contribution to this valuable habitat restoration program, of course.

Also, purchase horseradish.

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