For the most part, news of humans pouring trash into the ocean is disappointing – but the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (NYCDEP) is doing just that.
In this case, though, it’s for a good cause. The “trash” in question is a mix of porcelain – from discarded toilets – and clam shells, being dumped into Jamaica Bay to restore oyster populations.
Oysters have been completely extinct in Jamaica Bay, located along the southern edge of Long Island, for decades. But why recycled toilets?
Left to their own devices, oysters usually grow on the shells of dead oysters and clams. “There are some papers that indicate that crushed porcelain is very similar [in quality for] attracting oyster larvae as clam shell and oyster shells,” NYCDEP’s John McLaughlin said, in a statement to Reuters. “So instead of placing this material into a landfill, we decided to put it to a good use.”
Oysters are a key component of a healthy marine ecosystem. However, studies indicate that 85% of oyster reefs have been lost around the globe. The Billion Oyster Project, a foundation dedicated to restoring global oyster reefs, has partnered with the NYCDEP in the recycled toilet endeavor.
“Oyster reefs provide a lot of the same services that coral reefs do,” explains Billion Oyster Project’s Peter Malinowski. “They filter the water, they provide food and habitat for other animals, they stabilize the [seafloor], they increase water clarity, and they can stabilize the shoreline.”
In regards to water filtration, here’s something to think about the next time you order that tray of oysters: a single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. The NYCDEP is quick to point out, however, that these oysters will not be for human consumption. Once Jamaica Bay’s oyster reef is fully installed, researchers will monitor water quality in the region.