Walking into Wintzell’s Oyster House in Fairhope, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff and a familiar Gulf Coast sight of oyster shucking. The restaurant is known for its oysters but now it has a new use for oyster shells. Today it joined the Oyster Shell Recycling Program that all four other Wintzell’s Gulf Coast locations are already part of.
That means all those left over shells on your plate will be dumped into a recycling bin. Then they will be cleaned and eventually put back into the bay to form beds to grow more oysters. The program started in October and has sixteen restaurants in the area that participate.
“As of last week, we’ve collected over a million shells,” said Mark Berte, Alabama Coastal Foundation Executive Director. “That translates to about twenty different elephants in terms of the weight but it’s about two-point-five acres of oyster reefs.”
Wintzell’s is the first Fairhope restaurant to join the recycling program.
“Oyster’s used to be food for everyone,” said Buffy Donlon, Wintzell’s Oyster House Owner. “They were not expensive, they were plentiful but through the years; pollution has killed a lot of the oyster beds. So the recycling project is putting the shells back into the Gulf and into the bay so that new oysters can grow on top of it and provide more oysters for more people.”
The first round of oysters from the program are still in the cleaning stage. But now you can eat oysters at several restaurants knowing your shells will find their way back to the bay.