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5K Toilets to Get New Life as NYC Oyster Beds

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    NY Dept. of Environmental Protection / Flickr
    Broken porcelain, harvested from recycled toilets, is being used to foster thousands of oysters in New York City's Jamaica Bay, in a bid to improve water quality and protect the area's wetlands.

    New York City is placing 50,000 oysters in Jamaica Bay — on beds made with the porcelain from 5,000 recycled toilets.

    Mayor Bill de Blasio and the Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday that the project is the largest single installation of breeding oysters in New York City.

    The northeastern director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation says the project will buffer New York from storms while cleaning the water and creating wildlife habitat.

    The 31-square-mile Jamaica Bay is part of a 142-square-mile watershed that includes parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Nassau County.

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    The project is being done in partnership with the Harbor School's Billion Oyster Project.

    Oysters were once plentiful in Jamaica Bay, used by local Native Americans both as a source of food and as a currency called "wampum," according to a National Park Service history of the area. It was famous for its oysters until the early 1900s, when water contamination started to infect the creatures, eventually forcing the local shellfish industry to close.