People in all parts of the world love eating eggs. Not least because they are highly nutritious, tasty, and versatile and bring multiple benefits to the body. However, there are concerns about all that packaging. As we become more conscious of living an eco-friendly lifestyle, we can't help but ask - are egg cartons recyclable?
Well, this is not a straightforward answer. Egg cartons come in different materials like cardboard, plastics, and styrofoam. These materials will determine whether or not the egg carton is recyclable.
In this article, we will answer this question by examining the different egg cartons. We will look at how to recycle them and suggest creative ways you can reuse your egg cartons post-omelet, or your favorite cake has risen.
Materials used in making egg cartons
Most egg cartons typically come in three major materials. There are:
Paper egg cartons
Manufacturers make paper egg cartons from molded pulp. Molded pulp is a mix of cardboard, recycled paper, or other low-grade paper materials. They are affordable and more sustainable.
Are paper egg cartons recyclable?
Paper egg cartons can go directly into your recycling bin. Some paper cartons come with a recycling symbol that shows that the paper carton can be broken down into pulp and used to make other paper products.
However, you cannot recycle some paper cartons further because they have already broken them down into the thinnest form in production. Facilities cannot reuse these types of paper cartons to make other paper products, and they end up disposed of in a trash can.
There are recycling facilities that accept egg cartons. However, you want to make sure there is no egg residue or any kind of food waste, as this could contaminate the entire recycling process.
Check with your local authorities for any curbside program that recycles egg cartons. Also, look out for the recycling symbol on your egg carton before placing them in the recycling bin.
Clear plastic egg cartons
Manufacturers commonly make clear plastic egg cartons using polythene or PET plastic. The plastic goes through heating and processing to form molds used in making cartons fit for the curves of eggs. These plastic cartons use less energy during their manufacturing process and are more eco-friendly when compared to styrofoam cartons. However, like almost anything made from plastic, they ultimately fail the environmentally friendly test.
Are plastic egg cartons recyclable?
Manufacturers may sometimes make plastic cartons using other recycled materials like soda bottles. They categorize them as plastic number 1 and are acceptable in recycling facilities. These recycling facilities can recycle clear plastic egg cartons as long as there are no food residues.
Unlike paper/cardboard egg cartons, plastic egg cartons are easier to wash and place in the recycling bin. However, they are not as eco-friendly as cardboard egg cartons.
Styrofoam egg cartons
Styrofoam egg cartons are made of polystyrene, a type of material used in making plastic.
Polystyrene is a versatile and lightweight material. They are cheap and are also excellent insulators.
However, polystyrene can have damaging effects on the environment. When styrofoam degrades in landfills, it releases toxic chemicals into our environment, causing air pollution.
Styrofoam can also be poisonous to sea animals when dissolved into the ocean.
Can you recycle styrofoam egg cartons?
The styrofoam egg carton is the least eco-friendly material. They are both not recyclable and compostable. Polystyrene is not an accepted material in recycling facilities. When sent to the landfill, the foam egg carton could take many years to biodegrade, if ever.
Also, styrofoam material is associated with health issues like headaches, and irritation of the eyes and respiratory system. The best option will be to reuse or avoid foam egg cartons altogether.
How to recycle plastic and cardboard egg cartons
Before sending your egg cartons out for recycling, ensure you thoroughly clean out any food residue. Contamination from eggs or any food particles can distort the entire recycling process.
Local curbside pickup
The local curbside pickup is a standard method for recycling egg cartons.
With this method, all you need to do is gather your egg cartons and trash them in a recycling bin. Check for the recycling symbol or the plastic number 1 for plastics before dropping them off for pick up.
Take back programs
There are local grocery stores or farms that collect egg cartons for recycling, reuse or composting. These programs are cost-effective for many farmers. It is also a great way to divert cartons from ending up in trash cans or landfills.
You could check with your local grocery store for any take-back programs that accept egg cartons.
Are egg cartons biodegradable?
We consider a material biodegradable when it decays, providing nutrients to the soil. The question of the biodegradability of egg cartons depends on the material used.
As explained earlier, egg cartons typically come in cardboard, styrofoam/polystyrene, and plastic.
Cardboard cartons are biodegradable. When exposed to air and water, they can dissolve into the soil, forming nutrients. Cardboard consists of wood fibers that decay naturally.
Styrofoam and plastic egg cartons are not biodegradable. At most, they end up in trash cans and straight to the landfill. Unfortunately, these cartons could take many years to decompose and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, causing climate change.
Reusing your plastic and styrofoam cartons is your best option for a more eco-friendly environment.
Are egg cartons compostable?
Similarly, only the cardboard egg cartons are compostable. They contain enough carbon that provides valuable nutrients to the soil. To compost, paper cartons should be cut into small pieces or soaked in water. You can add these pieces to other compost materials like food waste and leaves. Once set in a suitable condition, worms can easily eat them - if you are using the worm compost system.
On the other hand, styrofoam and plastic egg cartons do not break down and are not compostable.
How to reuse egg cartons
The best egg cartons are plastic or cardboard paper cartons. Styrofoam cartons are not environmentally friendly or recyclable. However, a better option for buying eggs would be getting them from a local community farm to avoid the egg carton packaging in grocery stores.
If recycling your egg carton fails, there are many other creative ways to reuse old egg cartons.
You can add egg cartons to your home compost pile. Egg cartons made from paperboard could be a great addition alongside leaves and wood chips. Simply tear your egg cartons into smaller pieces, add your leaves, and create the right environment for composting. This is also a great way to divert cartons from ending up in landfill.
Egg cartons can be a great idea for growing seedlings in your garden. You could fill up your egg carton with soil and plant your seeds under the right conditions.
There are many things you could store using your egg carton. You could reuse them for new eggs or store items like golf balls, decorative ornaments, and other small objects in your home.
Ice cube tray
Cartons made of styrofoam or plastics are excellent alternatives for storing ice cubes. You can simply clean out your egg cartons, fill them up with water and store them in your freezer.
You can use your old plastic egg cartons as paint containers. The shape and size are just perfect for holding some paint while painting. Simply clean out food residue from the cartons, fill them up, and you’ve got a whole palette of colors for home arts and crafts. Or the masterpiece you always knew you had in you.
If you can't use your egg cartons for any of the above options, you can give them out to children in a local school.
Children could use egg cartons for school projects or creative arts. You could also give them to a local farmer. Farmers could use them to store new eggs, saving costs and a little waste a carton at a time.
Reusable egg cartons
With the world moving towards more sustainable ways of living, it is no surprise that reusable egg cartons are now available in the market. With the average person in the US consuming an estimated 293.6 eggs as of 2019, plastic egg cartons continue to multiply, increasing the environmental impact of packaging.
Pete and Gerry's Organic eggs are one of the first brands to develop a reusable egg carton. The company sees this as a step towards more sustainable living and shows its commitment to helping consumers adopt new behaviors that reduce their carbon footprint.
The brand makes its reusable egg carton using recycled BPA-free plastics. Consumers can simply wash and refill their cartons repeatedly.
Today, the brand continues to create programs and make more extensive plans to reach more consumers through sustainable innovation.
Benefits of recycling/reusing egg cartons
Several benefits come with choosing to recycle or reuse your egg carton. Recycling or reusing your egg cartons helps reduce the environmental impact of plastic and paper packaging. Plastics can take years to decompose in landfills, contributing to the release of harmful gases into the atmosphere. Also, the chemicals released from the degradation of plastic packaging can be harmful to sea animals and humans.
Recycling or reusing your egg cartons can divert plastics that end up in landfill. Also, donating your old egg cartons can help farmers save costs. We can also use these cartons for storing items, making them a great addition to our home.
Egg cartons are great packaging for storing your eggs. However, it is easy to overlook the impact egg cartons could have on the environment. Choosing to recycle or reuse your egg carton can go a long way in preserving the planet. The best part is, recycling your egg carton is as easy as dropping it off the curbside. All you need to do is check for recycling facilities and curbside programs with your local authorities.