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Lawmakers consider incentives to recycle oyster shells

Oyster Harvesting
Steve Helber
Lacy Rose holds an oyster on his boat on the Rappahannock River near White Stone, Va., Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015.

One female oyster produces up to 100 million eggs a year. She releases them into the water, where they’re fertilized and – with luck – settle onto a hard surface. Old oyster shells are ideal, but Delegate Tim Anderson says too many of them end up in landfills.

“All these little baby oysters are homeless, and so when they go to the ground if there’s nothing for them to cling to they die.”

Which is why the Republican from Virginia Beach has proposed offering a small incentive to restaurants to give their oyster shells to non-profit recyclers like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation or the Virginia Oyster Shell Recycling Program.

“If you’re a restaurant and you save 250 shells, you get a $4 tax credit for each one of those bushels, and we can get more recycled oyster shells into the waters," he explains. "Many are already recycling, but the ones that are not just to get them to say, ‘Yeah, let’s save our oyster shells so we can get our tax credit,’ it’s good for everybody.”

Restaurants could claim no more than $1,500 on their tax return, and Anderson’s bill caps the total cost to taxpayers at $250,000 a year. Considering each adult oyster can filter pollutants from 50 gallons of water a day, he thinks it’s a good investment.

The same bill is sponsored on the senate side by Democrat Monty Mason of Williamsburg.

Sandy Hausman is Radio IQ's Charlottesville Bureau Chief