CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is asking for your leftover oyster shells.
Currently, the department's recycling program is only collecting about half the shells they need to keep the oyster population steady.
"To help manage our populations, we have to plant a certain amount of shell," Ben Dyar, the Coordinator of DNR's Oyster Recycling and Planting program said. "Right now, we're not recycling enough shell to cover that so we're actually having to purchase some more shell from out of state."
The shells are important because they allow baby oysters to grow and create oyster beds that filter millions of gallons of water and even prevent erosion on beaches.
"When there's tidal currents that we have here and also boat wakes, instead of washing away the mud, they'll actually act as a breakwater and lower the impact," Dyar said.
167 Raw on East Bay Street is one of 16 restaurants in the tri-county and only two on the peninsula that take part in the DNR's oyster shell recycling program.
"We shuck the oysters as they're ordered," Kyle Norton, the Co-owner of 167 Raw said. "We throw all the shells in a bucket, throw them in a big DNR recycling oyster bin basically and they come by at the end of the week."
Restaurants provide about a quarter of the shells DNR gets but there are 13 drop off locations for the public to use in the tri-county area.
Norton and Dyer say the decision to recycle the shells is a no-brainer.
"It doesn't take up a lot of space," Norton said. "It's pretty easy. I think if more restaurants team up and kind of talk about it and weigh the option and realize the benefits, I think it makes a lot of sense."
Last year the program collected 1.2 million pounds of shells.