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Upcycling Happy Hour: BOP Restaurants & Shell Collection is Scaling Up!

By Susannah Black
July 29, 2016

by Lindsey Pitts, BOP Communications Intern

Thanks to United Metro Energy, BOP’s Restaurant and Shell Collection Program has fuel in its tank! UME has become the most recent company to partner with us, donating fuel to run Pearl, our Shell Collection Program van, as well as to keep all our boats’ engines fueled.  This kind of support is crucial, covering one of our major expenses.  Collecting shells from over 50 different New York City restaurants takes fuel!

And shell collection at this scale is working. The SCP has recently hit a new milestone: according to Alberto Carreras, BOP’s Earth Matter liason and Shell Collection Program manager, SCP’s recently passed the 300,000 pound mark.

MW Whole Foods

Whole Foods’ new Williamsburg location is one of our latest shell collection program participants.

Why do we collect these shells? Here’s an overview:

The best place for oysters to grow is on other oysters.  Thanks to Billion Oyster Project, discarded oyster shells become the habitat for 10-20 smaller oysters.  These shells, which come from over fifty restaurants around New York City, play an integral role in the development of oyster reefs.  The BOP Shell Collection Program collects oyster shells from New York City restaurants in order to reuse them as part of their reef building efforts.  Earth Matter, a Governors Island based composting group, has partnered with BOP to manage the physical shell collection and is responsible for the curing process.

Four days a week, shells are collected from restaurants throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn and brought to a depot in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.  About once a month, when the storage container is filled, the shells are transported to an Earth Matter-run site on Staten Island where they are able to cure.  It’s located on the campus of the NRG Energy company’s Staten Island power plant; NRG has allowed BOP to use the site at no cost. During the curing process, which takes at least one year, rain and high temperatures clean the organic matter from the shells, making them ready to be reused.  Some of the shells are used to grow smaller oysters on, while others are used as fill for the oyster reef.


Since it started in May 2015, the Shell Collection Program has grown rapidly.  A wide variety of restaurants have joined the program.  Some serve shellfish almost exclusively, while others have a single oyster dish.  Some produce thousands of shells per week, while others produce very few.  By participating, restaurants can make an impact on their community, as well as help improve the harbor of their city. 


Crave Fishbar is one of our many valued BOP partner restaurants. And they throw an awesome Oyster Social!

Many restaurants have joined because they want to contribute to the restoration of their local waterways.  In addition to helping restore New York Harbor, restaurants also are able to reduce their waste and keep thousands of pounds of oyster shells out of landfills.  The shell collection program also allows BOP to reach thousands of oyster lovers who eat at these restaurants. Every restaurant that participates helps increase awareness of the role of oysters in cleaning New York Harbor and their importance in the ecosystem.

The Shell Collection Program would not be possible without the support of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, which has partnered with BOP to help fund this program.  Because of $160,000 from the GOSR, BOP has been able to expand its shell collection efforts.

Aside from their regular collection at restaurants, the Shell Collection Program also collects shells at events such as New York Oyster Week and the New York Harbor Regatta Bash, as well as at Oyster Socials throughout the year.  These events have both many shells and many people in attendance, which is beneficial for both the Shell Collection Program and the Billion Oyster Project as a whole.


Over 300,000 pounds, or 150 tons, of oyster shells have been collected since the start of the Program.  If 20 oyster larvae settled on each shell, then a total of well over 50 million new oysters would be growing as a result of the shell collection.  With this many shells already collected, and rates of shell collection expected to continue to increase, the Billion Oyster Project is well on its way to achieving its goal of introducing one billion oysters to New York Harbor by 2035.

Crave Fishbar staff volunteering with BOP on Governors Island. The day wouldn't have been complete without some shucking, of course!

Crave Fishbar staff volunteering with BOP on Governors Island. The day wouldn’t have been complete without some shucking, of course!