Simon Branigan, Minister D'Ambrosio and Alex Smith
Shuck Don't Chuck Simon Branigan, Minister D'Ambrosio and Alex Smith ©: Craig Moodie Photography

Food & Water Stories

Shuck Don't Chuck: Shell Recycling Project

How we're making good use of a previously wasted product.

Update: 27 October 2017

We’re very excited to announce that The Nature Conservancy’s “Shuck Don’t Chuck” Shell Recycling Project last night  won the Victorian Premier’s Sustainability Award in the Community Category. Our deep appreciation goes out to all our project partners. Read more about the project below.  

How we're making good use of a previously wasted product.

Growing native oysters for our reef restoration work can be a tricky business. In order to grow, juvenile oysters require a hard surface (preferably another oyster shell or something similar like a mussel or scallop) to settle on. Historic dredge fishing removed much of the existing oyster shell from Port Phillip Bay and the lack of hard shell substrate is one of the key factors preventing oyster reefs from re-establishing naturally in the Bay.

To promote this natural cycle, we set up a recycling project named Shuck don’t chuck for used oyster, mussel and scallop shells from restaurants, venues and seafood wholesalers around Geelong. Once collected the shells are cured to kill off any diseases, combined with limestone rubble and then placed on the seafloor as a ‘settlement substrate’ for juvenile oysters to cement onto. This technique has been used successfully by The Nature Conservancy in the United States and around the world for more than 15 years.

Shell recycling through Shuck Don’t Chuck, is providing a sustainable solution to the loss of shells in the life cycle while decreasing landfill waste. Our partners in the project include Brambles, GDP Industries, Little Creatures Geelong and SUEZ.

Process of using recycled shells for building a new reef
Shell Recycling Diagram Process of using recycled shells for building a new reef © TNC

About Shuck don't chuck

Watch this short video from ABC online about our shell recycling project to restore the forgotten shellfish reefs of Port Phillip Bay.


Recycling shells from your plate When feasting on a steaming hot bowl of mussels, have you ever wondered what happens to all the leftover shells? Chances are they end up in landfill. Restaurants in Geelong have been donating shells to the local shell recycling program.

We’re proud to work in partnership with CHEP, City of Greater Geelong, Geelong Disabled Peoples Industries, Little Creatures Geelong, Mantzaris Fisheries and Wah Wah Gee on this exciting and impactful project.