Egg consumption in the United States has increased by 16% in the last 20 years, fueling the egg industry to produce 99.1 billion eggs per year.
If each carton holds a dozen eggs, that’s more than 8.2 billion egg cartons used in just one year! Luckily, there are ways to ensure that egg cartons are recyclable or repurposed instead of going straight to the landfill.
Are Egg Cartons Recyclable?
When you head to the egg section of your local grocery store, you probably see all sorts of jargon like cage-free, organic, and free-range. These eggs usually come in one of three packaging types: paper, styrofoam, or plastic. Depending on what you purchase, they may or may not be recyclable.
What types of egg cartons are recyclable?
Paper egg cartons are made from recycled paper that’s turned into a pulp and reshaped to house your eggs for easy transport. Since they’re already made of recycled paper, these egg cartons can be put in your recycling bin.
Clear plastic cartons can also be recycled. Double-check to see if your container has a recycling symbol on it before putting it curbside, but these are typically made from recycled plastic themselves and can be recycled again.
If you are recycling cartons, be sure they’re free from debris. Only clean and dry cartons can be properly recycled, so if you crack your eggs and put them back into the carton, you can either compost your paper carton or rinse your plastic one prior to setting it curbside.
What types of egg cartons are not recyclable?
Polystyrene or styrofoam is a common enemy among environmentalists because of its inability to be easily recycled. When styrofoam is exposed to sunlight, it starts to degrade and may release harmful compounds. It also easily breaks apart and enters waterways as a form of pollution that negatively impacts marine animals.
Is styrofoam recyclable at all? While some recycling programs do accept styrofoam, it’s more difficult to recycle than other materials used to make egg cartons. If you do happen to have foam cartons, check to see if your grocery store has a takeback program or send them to Eggland’s Best program.
Can Egg Cartons Be Composted?
Yes! Just cardboard or paper egg cartons can be composted. You can throw them in your own backyard compost or bring them to your city’s composting service. These biodegradable egg cartons are considered brown material in a compost system, so they’ll help diversify your pile and increase the speed at which you get nutritious soil!
3 Tips for Enjoying Eggs Sustainably
Eggs are a nutritious and delicious part of our diets. Next time you head to the store, consider these tips for eating eggs sustainably.
1. Source Ethical Eggs
The healthiest and most ethically raised eggs don’t come in styrofoam. If you can, avoid styrofoam all together and turn to paper or plastic egg cartons for sustainable packaging and sustainable eggs. Look for free-range, cage-free, and organic to source the highest quality eggs.
Not only are these practices more humane, they actually make more nutritious eggs for you! You can see the difference between a free-range egg and a caged egg just by the color of the yolk. A hearty deep orange yolk actually has more nutrients than its counterpart due to the laying hen’s diverse diet. So it’s better for you, better for the animals, and better for the planet to buy ethical eggs!
2. Have a Waste Plan
Whenever you purchase something, keep in mind the end of its life. Can it be recycled? Composted? When we put something in the trash can, it winds up releasing methane gas as it decomposes in a landfill. These landfills are the third-largest source of methane emissions, which contribute to climate change. By recycling and composting, you’re responsibly allocating your waste to reduce your footprint.
3. Reduce & Reuse
Before you get ready to recycle, remember the first two Rs. If you’re able, purchase eggs in bulk to avoid buying multiple containers. Not only does this keep you stocked up, but it also reduces your dependence on petroleum-based plastics and fossil-fuel emitting materials.
Next time you’re ready to throw your carton in the recycling, compost, or trash bin, keep it handy for egg carton recycling projects.
4 Ways to Reuse Egg Cartons
Even if you’re planning to recycle or compost your egg cartons, there are a variety of ways to repurpose your cartons prior to their disposal. Just remember to clean them out before sending them to the recycling center!
There are hundreds of things you can organize with a handy egg carton. Junk drawer with loose hardware or screws? Egg carton. Beads or crafting materials floating around? Egg carton. They easily fit in drawers, making them a free and easy drawer organizer for just about everything.
You can even use them on the go. Next time you head to the beach, grab an empty egg carton on your way out to easily collect and store shells or sea glass!
2. Crafting & DIYing
Egg cartons are pretty versatile when it comes to crafting. Use them to hold paints and supplies, or cut them into pieces for construction projects with your kids.
Paper egg cartons are easy to paint and make into turkeys, hearts, trees, or caterpillars! By reusing your egg cartons, you’re getting the very most out of them before disposal, which is much better for the planet.
3. Gardening Projects
Paper egg cartons are great for gardening projects or transporting seedlings. They also make a wonderful bird feeder! Simply fill them with seeds and use string to tie up each of the four corners. Hang it on a tree branch and watch as birds flock to your garden.
The best part about using paper egg cartons for gardening is that they can be composted right back into your own garden once you’re finished upcycling them.
4. Refrigerator Refresh
If your fridge shelves are lined with condiment bottles that fall over every time you open the door, you’re not alone. Use an egg carton to store those bottles upside down, so things like your mayonnaise and ranch dressing are secured and ready to serve.
Sustainable Eggs, From the Store to Your Backyard
Eggs are a staple in so many classic American meals. Whether you’re whipping up an Eggs Benedict, breakfast for dinner, or baking a cake, eggs are an essential component of our diet. In purchasing eggs that are raised humanely and in recyclable packaging, you’re making the best decision for the planet.
Download Our Free Guide to Sustainable Living.
From reducing waste to recycling and upcycling, our e-book shows simple ways to make choices you can feel good about.