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Howard offers oyster shell recycling at Alpha Ridge Landfill

Don't just shuck 'em and chuck 'em: that's the message Howard officials sent yesterday by announcing a new oyster shell recycling service for county residents.

Howard is partnering with Maryland Environmental Sciences and the Oyster Recovery Partnership to offer the program, which encourages residents to bring their empty oyster shells to the Alpha Ridge Landfill in Marriottsville to be put to good use. Columbia's Robinson Nature Center started offering oyster shell recycling earlier this year.

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Once used as paving for roads and driveways, the shells are now coveted as sturdy homes for oyster larvae. Once it's mature, an oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of dirty water a day, and environmentalists hope they can grow the state's oyster population to improve the health of the heavily polluted Chesapeake Bay.

"Oysters are essential to Maryland's environment, economy and culture," County Executive Ken Ulman said in a statement accompanying the announcement. "They filter Bay water, provide habitat for blue crabs and other aquatic life and are financially important to thousands of restaurants, caterers and other businesses. This program allows us to be responsible stewards and help ensure the ongoing recovery of the Chesapeake Bay's oyster population and ultimately, the Bay itself."

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Oyster Recovery Partnership staff will collect shells at the landfill and bring them to the Horn Point Laboratory Oyster Hatchery in Cambridge, where they will be cleaned and reseeded with oyster larvae before being reintroduced into the Bay. Since starting this effort, the ORP has recycled 1,400 tons of oyster shells and planted 5.2 billion oysters. Each shell can provide a home for up to 10 oysters.

Howard is one of nine counties in the state to offer oyster shell recycling.

Residents can drop off their shells at the landfill's convenience centerl, which is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Two oyster shell bins with ORP recycling signs are located at the far end of the convenience center next to the food scraps collection container, according to the county.

At the Robinson Nature Center, the oyster shell recycling bin is located at the far end of the parking lot and is accessible during the center's regular hours, Wednesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.

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