Waste Pro USA of Volusia County has been named as this year’s recipient of Marine Discovery Center’s Rhizophora Conservation Hero Award.

MDC presents its Rhizophora Award to individuals and entities working to make a positive impact on the health of the Indian River Lagoon by demonstrating Marine Discovery Center’s mission “to protect and restore Florida’s coastal and Indian River Lagoon ecosystems through education, research and community stewardship.”

The award is the highest conservation honor bestowed by MDC. It was presented during the annual ShORE Symposium at the Brannon Center on Thursday, April 11.

Waste Pro receives Rhizophora Conservation Hero Award

Waste Pro began partnering with MDC’s Shuck & Share program in 2014 to collect discarded oyster shells from participating local restaurants. Ten years later this spring, the company helped Shuck & Share record a milestone collection of more than one million pounds of oyster shells recycled for use in Indian River Lagoon restoration projects.

“This is a huge honor for Waste Pro and who would have ever guessed the impact that it would have when we started this a decade ago,” said Jose D. Abarca, Waste Pro District Operations Manager.

“Our company’s motto is, ‘Whatever it takes,’ and this oyster recycling program is a prime example of that,” added Abarca. “It’s a success story for all of us.”

According to Tess Sailor-Tynes, MDC Conservation Science Coordinator, Waste Pro provides “a significant contribution in both shell collection and community partnership.” The company has provided weekly pick-up service to restaurants that recycle larger quantities of shell and drop off of the shells at the Marine Discovery Center.

“The conservation efforts that are supported by Shuck & Share would not be successful without Waste Pro’s involvement,” said Sailor-Tynes. “The ability to divert larger amounts of oyster shells from the landfill and to use them in the restoration of thousands of feet of shoreline and acres of oyster beds is due to the unwavering positive impact that Waste Pro creates in our community.”

Waste Pro Truck at MDC

In addition to transporting shells, Waste Pro also has supported special events through waste disposal supplies and has continued active participation in the mission of MDC’s conservation and restoration initiatives.

“It’s always been our goal to be more than just a ‘garbage company,’ and MDC’s oyster program allows us to give back to our community,” said Abarca. “We can all feel proud that we are doing the right thing environmentally.”

Past Conservation Hero Award recipients are: MDC volunteers Dick and Lyn Clement (2023), Capt. Billy Rotne (2020), and Volusia County Schools teacher Louise Chapman, who was MDC’s inaugural winner (2018).