Millions of tourists flock to the Grand Strand to enjoy golf, the beach and plenty of seafood.
Oysters are often a delicacy enjoyed by tourists and locals alike in and around the tourist hubs of Horry and Georgetown counties. But the area consumes more oysters than it recycles the shells, which leads the S.C. Department of Natural Resources annually to reach from other areas to build reefs essential for their reproduction.
State officials like Ben Dyar, coordinator of the DNR’s oyster recycling program, are surprised the area is not self-sufficient with its oyster consumption versus the area’s effort to recycle the shells.
You would think, just logically, with the number of restaurants in the area that serve oysters that there would be enough. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.”
Ben Dyar, coordinator for oyster shell recycling, S.C. Department of Natural Resources
“When we recycle shells from certain areas, we keep them shells in those areas, for the most part,” Dyar said. “We plant a lot more shells in the Georgetown, Murrells Inlet area, and the Myrtle Beach area than we recycle right now.”
Dyar leads a skeleton crew of three members statewide trying to educate and eventually prompt people to recycle oyster shells. The benefits of recycling the shells include a bed for more oysters to house their eggs, oysters filter the water they grow in and it provides better water conditions for fish around the recycled oyster reef.
Dyar said he and his two staff members have been working for years to educate those who enjoy oysters to recycle the shells.
“It’s really due to two main things: Lack of knowledge and understanding and just straight awareness,” Dyar said. “Another factor is the logistics thing. There are only three of us and we’re working with limited funds and a limited number of people to cover an entire state.”
Dyar said the state has a pilot program in Berkeley, Dorchester and Charleston counties placing smaller recycling barrels at restaurants that have side handles on them, similar to garbage cans, to make it easier for the shells to be picked up. He said recycling has been growing through the state in previous years, and that growth should continue in Horry and Georgetown counties.
“We are very close to getting to that number of recycled shells versus planted shells,” Dyar said. “I’m hoping that within the next three to five years, we should be able to get there. We’re pushing for it. We’re going to get there so this won’t be an issue anymore.”