I found myself in an egg carton quandary the other day. I had promised to make cookies for my daughter’s class and had just run out of eggs from my parents’ farm. recycling egg cartons My parents have a certified-organic farm, so when I visit I’m able to get organic produce, meat and eggs. I save my egg cartons and use them again and again. This is the ultimate in knowing where your food comes from. But, it is when I’m unable to visit and must negotiate the choices at the grocery store that I realized how blessed I am. At the grocery store, an organic farm I know well had its eggs packaged in cardboard cartons, another large brand had its cage-free and organic eggs packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and still another had its in polystyrene foam packaging. I grabbed the cardboard-packaged eggs because I recognized the farm. But, once I got home, I was curious about what is actually the best packaging choice for the environment.

Pulp paper/cardboard

These cartons are made from low-grade recycled paper. Egg cartons are usually the end of the line for recycled paper because paper quality degrades with continued recycling. According to the Technical Association of the Pulp and Paper Industry, wood fibers can only be recycled five to seven times before they become too short and brittle to be made into new paper products. A unique benefit of cardboard egg cartons is that you can start seedlings in them. Fill each section with soil and a few seeds. Once the seeds have sprouted, divide the carton into the individual compartments and plant them (carton and all) in the ground. These cartons are biodegradable so they can also be put into your compost bin.
organic farm
The author's parents' sustainable farm

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET)

According the Eggland’s Best site, the company chose PET for its cage-free and organic eggs not only because it is good for protecting the eggs, but also because the manufacturing process minimizes materials used, energy consumed and waste generated in production. The plastic egg carton is 100% recyclable and is made entirely from 100% recycled materials (recycled soda bottles). The carton is labeled with the #1 recycling code, which can be recycled by most municipal waste-collection agencies. PET can be remanufactured to produce polyester fiber, which is used in carpets, insulating fleece for clothing and containers.

Polystyrene foam

Dolco Packaging is the number one supplier of foam egg cartons to domestic egg manufacturers. Its beige, green and orange foam contains 40% recycled material. And, all of its facilities have in-house recycling programs. As a matter of fact, if your community does not collect and recycle foam egg cartons, you may send clean cartons to: Dolco Packaging PO Box 1005 2110 Patterson St. Decatur, IN 46733-5005 For more information on mail-in and drop-off recycling facilities, visit Dolco Packaging. Recycled polystyrene can be used for many products, such as packaging peanuts, CD jewel boxes, office supplies, video cassette casings and other packaging uses. As more products are packaged in polystyrene foam, more and more communities are accepting this packaging in their recycling programs.