Can You Recycle Egg Cartons? A Definitive Guide

can you recycle egg cartons

Can you recycle egg cartons? Have you ever looked at the bin and wondered about it? Your everyday trash likely includes egg cartons.

These can be rather large and bulky because of the padding to protect the eggs. It seems wasteful to just keep throwing them away.

Eggs are a staple in dishes all across the world. We can have them for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, and sometimes, they are included in every meal considering the sheer number of recipes that call for eggs.

In fact, did you know the average American consumes over 270 eggs every year?

That’s millions and millions of egg cartons being produced each year. Imagine all those cartons in the trash. That surely cannot be the case.

So, then are egg cartons recyclable after all? Let’s find out.

Are Egg Cartons Recyclable?

are egg cartons biodegradable

Eggs are an essential part of our diets, and cartons are the best way to transport them from store to home safely.

The world isn’t going to stop consuming eggs; the amount we consume grows each year. So, it’s crucial that cases be produced and disposed of sustainably.

Egg cartons are generally made from one of three materials—Styrofoam, cardboard, and paper.

We’ll be answering the question, can you recycle egg cartons and how for each of them. 

Can You Recycle Styrofoam Egg Cartons?

Styrofoam is every manufacturer’s first choice to use as packaging for their goods.

Why?

Because it’s so lightweight and cheap. Unfortunately, Styrofoam has a huge drawback when it comes to recyclability.

Styrofoam or polystyrene is a type of plastic, and so it does not break down well in recycling centers.

Some of it might be useable for making tougher plastics. However, its final destination is still the landfill.

Also, because of its lightweight and low cost, Styrofoam isn’t very profitable to recycle.

The amount you’d need to collect, and transport is outrageously high compared to the profits that can be made. This is why you are unlikely to find any recycling market for Styrofoam.

So, the answer to the question, can you recycle Styrofoam egg cartons is ‘no.’ You won’t find any recycling plants willing to make an effort with Styrofoam.

So, if you’ve bought a Styrofoam egg case, you can always sanitize and reuse it, but at the end of its usefulness to you, it will go in the trash can.

There are some wise folks on eBay that collect and sell these. How good is your eCommerce?

Can You Recycle Cardboard Egg Cartons?

can you recycle cardboard egg cartons

These casings are made of a mixture of recycled paper, cardboard, and fiber grass.

Pulp egg cartons are eco-friendly and the most commonly used of the three materials used for making cartons.

Like most other cardboard types, egg carton pulp is also 100% recyclable, as long as you remember to place them in the correct bin.

It’s easy to recycle cardboard, and with the right knowledge, you could do it at home as well.

Let’s briefly examine the cardboard recycling process.

When cardboard gets to the recycling plants, it is sorted and shredded. Then it is added to water in a process known as pulping.

This involves the breaking down of the cardboard to make it softer and malleable so that it can be turned into something else.

This pulp is then filtered to remove any contaminants or foreign materials that tend to get mixed with paper. Towards the end, they add more water to alter the pulp’s consistency.

Finally, it is rolled and dried to remove all of the water. Now the recycled mush is ready to be prepared into new sheets of paper or cardboard.

You might have heard before that certain cardboard types cannot be recycled—for instance, pizza or takeaway boxes with food or grease stains. The same applies to egg cartons as well.

If an egg broke in the carton, don’t throw the carton in the recycle bin. The food residue might contaminate the recycled paper.

In this case, it is best to shred the carton and add it to the compost pile. Since they are biodegradable, this is a safer, eco-friendly way to ensure that cartons don’t end up in a landfill.

Here’s an interesting video on how you can create a compost pile using the cardboard shreds from your egg cartons.

Can You Recycle Paper Egg Cartons?

Paper Egg cases are made from the same or similar pulp as cardboard egg cartons. As such, the same recycling rules apply.

Are egg cartons recyclable? If they’re made from paper, and they’re clean and dry again, Yes.

Can You Recycle Clear PET Plastic Egg Cartons?

PET stands for Polyethylene Terephthalate. It’s a form of plastic that is heated to take the shape of molds.

This kind of plastic is recyclable up to at least seven times. One of the reasons these cases have gained popularity over the past decade is that they are incredibly lightweight.

Since they are transparent, you can see the eggs inside and assess whether any have been damaged before you purchase them. Feel free to toss any egg containers made from PET into the recycling bin.

If you are still skeptical about whether you can recycle it, check the container label. The package almost always has a symbol on it if it’s recyclable.

Are Egg Cartons Biodegradable?

Dealing with waste is no longer as uncomplicated as it used to be. Earlier, one simply had to make three piles—one each for paper, plastic, and glass.

Today, we have to check the label for whether something is recyclable, biodegradable, or compostable.

While most companies, even people, use terms like biodegradable and compostable interchangeably, they are not.

Biodegradable

Biodegradable essentially means the product will break down into biomass, water, and carbon dioxide over time in oxygen-deprived conditions.

There is no time stipulation here, but experts agree to a 1000-year period as a rule of thumb. This is why certain plastics are considered biodegradable.

Compostable

On the other hand, compostable means the product will break down into biomass, water, carbon dioxide, and inorganic compounds within 90 days in oxygen-deprived conditions.

Turning egg cartons into plant food in a compost pile is an excellent and environmentally friendly way to dispose of them.

It’s also a way to get a little more use out of the cartons. They break down relatively quickly, fertilizing the soil. You can also add eggshells to the pile for an added calcium boost.

Are egg cartons biodegradable? Depending on the type of carton, they are recyclable, compostable, and biodegradable.

What to Remember

  • Only paper or cardboard egg cartons can be used for compost
  • PET egg cartons can be recycled seven times
  • Cardboard or pulp-based egg cases stained with food residue are not recyclable and are better off being turned into compost
  • When in doubt, read the label on the packaging and follow directions
  • Reusing and recycling are healthy for the environment

Here are some more ideas on how you can reuse them to help save the planet.

Where Can I Use Old Egg Cartons?

1. Turn It into A Small Storage Unit

Clean the case thoroughly with a washcloth, dry it, and voila! You have a custom storage facility for small items like beads, jewelry, sim cards, or even candy. Now isn’t that creative?

Since the case has multiple evenly sized compartments, it’s also quite esthetically pleasing. For a more vibrant case, you can decorate it with paint, sequins, etc.

2. Paint Pallet

If you enjoy painting or have a partner or kids who are fond of painting, why not use the egg carton’s evenly sized and spaced compartments as pallets for paint?

Seeing as they also close from the top, you can store your paint in it without worrying about it drying up.

3. Fireplace

If you have a log fireplace at home or you’re planning to go camping, hold on to some of those containers because you can use them for fuel.

You might just need to coat the insides with wax and lint to make it more flammable.

4. Grow A Plant

are egg cartons biodegradable

These small, oval-shaped compartments make for perfect nurseries. Simply add a few teaspoons of starter soil, plop in a seed, and sprinkle some water.

Leave the egg carton in a warm, sunny place and watch as your plants begin to shoot.

As soon as they’re ready, you can snip off the egg carton compartment and plant the whole thing, roots intact, in a larger pot.

5) Egg Case

Earlier, we asked the question, can you recycle eggshell cartons?

If you consider reusing it as a form of recycling, then the answer is yes, all eggshell cartons can be recycled.

The simplest way to get more out of your egg carton is to carry an empty one to the store and reuse it when purchasing more eggs.

Summary

Egg cartons made from paper, cardboard, or PET plastic are 100% recyclable as long as they’re not stained with any food residue.

In fact, most of the time, these are made from recycled materials in the first place.

Egg cartons made from Styrofoam cannot be recycled, but if you’re keen on being more eco-friendly, you can reuse these cartons in any of the ways suggested earlier.

We hope you found this article on can you recycle egg cartons helpful.

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