Are egg cartons biodegradable? (3 types of egg cartons)

In this article, it shall be known whether egg cartons are biodegradable or not. Other topics covered would be: 

  • What are egg cartons?
  • What are egg cartons made of?
  • What is biodegradability?
  • Why does the biodegradability of egg cartons matter?
  • How can egg cartons be disposed of in the right way?
  • What are some uses of egg cartons?
  • FAQs

Are egg cartons biodegradable?

Egg cartons made from pulp are biodegradable whereas egg cartons made from PET plastic or foam are not biodegradable.

Egg cartons are also of good utilitarian value and can be used for a variety of domestic uses saving both money and the environment 

What are egg cartons?

Egg cartons are designed for the carrying and transportation of whole eggs. Egg cartons are also called egg boxes. Usually, there are about 6-12 eggs kept in egg cartons. 

Do you remember the last time you made an omelette? What was the first step of it? You simply broke the egg with a light nudge from a knife or table corner, right? This implies that eggs are very fragile and care must be taken in handling and transporting eggs. 

Egg cartons are of important economical and utilitarian value because eggs are very fragile and can be broken by very light forces. It is estimated that most eggs are broken and damaged during the transportation process of eggs. 

This is because the transportation process of eggs is not that smooth and therefore, it is very important that external support must be provided so that eggs are not wasted. 

If more eggs are wasted during the handling and transportation of eggs, this simply means that greater pressure is given on poultry which will be dealt with in unsustainable ways. 

Even now, the increased demands for poultry eggs are met in unsustainable ways that include the usage of chemicals and hormones. If more eggs are wasted in the transportation process, the situation will further exacerbate which will translate destructively on life and the environment. 

Therefore, it can be assumed that the role of egg cartons is not only limited to eggs’ protection but also environmental protection. 

Also, egg cartons are of good economical value as well because if fewer eggs are wasted then it simply reciprocates to greater sales and more profit. Hence, the use of egg cartons is a win-win for the pocket as well as the environment. 

What are egg cartons made of?

When it comes to the production of egg cartons, there are many variations. Some producers resort to eco-friendly options while producing egg cartons whereas some producers resort to not-so-eco-friendly options. 

The most common materials that are employed in the production of egg cartons are polystyrene or pulped paper. 

Other materials that may be used are recycled paper, cardboard, moulded pulp and various other polymers. 

As you may have guessed, among the materials used in the production of egg cartons, some are good for the environment whereas some are not. The materials which are natural such as paper, pulp or cardboard do not cause environmental problems. 

Whereas materials such as polymers or polystyrene are not natural but rather man-made. These materials are linked to a number of detrimental impacts on the environment as well as people and hence are not termed eco-friendly. 

The synthetic materials that are used to make egg cartons are linked with a plethora of environmental problems of waste accumulation, habitat destruction, pollution, global warming, loss of life, and infiltration of the food chains. 

These substances do not gel well with nature’s ability to dispose of waste and hence can persist in the environment for hundreds of years while causing harm to life and the environment. 

What is biodegradability? 

Biodegradability is the process through which complex materials are broken down into simpler materials by the action of microbes complemented with air, water and atmospheric conditions. It is a naturally occurring process designed by nature to deal with waste produced. 

You often see dead animals by the side of a highway. If some time has passed, they start to decompose automatically which can be seen and smelled. This is an example of biodegradability. The degradation by the action of bio (life). 

The concept of biodegradability is not only limited to plants and animals. Products and packages can also be biodegradable and non-biodegradable. 

Generally, there are three types of biodegradability. These are: 

  • Bio-Compostable
  • Oxo-degrade
  • Landfill biodegradable

If any product or material is made from natural substances (such as animal-based or plant-based material) then it implies that the particular product is biodegradable. It will degrade in some months or perhaps a week thus leaving no strain on the environment. 

However, if a product or material is made from man-made, artificial or synthetic materials then it would not degrade readily and hence would be termed as non-biodegradable. 

Perhaps the best example of non-biodegradable material is plastic. Plastic remains in the environment for as long as a thousand years and causes grave impacts on the environment and life in general.

Research has shown that plastic impacts as many as 700 species on land and countless aquatic species. It causes material deterioration, species endangerment, and environmental degradation. 

With the increasingly rising population, the handling and managing of population-related aspects are becoming unprecedentedly challenging. The current world’s population stands at 8 billion and is expected to increase to more than 11 billion by the start of the next century. 

With this unprecedented scenario, the tackling of waste produced by man is also becoming increasingly impossible and therefore, the need for biodegradable waste is now more than ever. 

Why does the biodegradability of egg cartons matter?

It may be a matter of piqued interest why the biodegradability of egg cartons is important. The immense use of eggs makes the biodegradability of egg cartons important. 

In the UK alone, the consumption of eggs is flabbergasting. As per the statistical analyses, it is found that the average egg consumption for the year 2021 in the UK was 13.5 billion eggs. This implies that each day almost 37 million eggs were consumed in 2021 in the UK. 

Another factor that makes the subject important is that not only the consumption of eggs is immense but it is also increasing which is logical given the population rise in context. 

As per the stats, the consumption of eggs in the UK has increased by 3 billion eggs each year since 2006. In the last 13 years, there has been an increase of more than 50% in the retail of commercially available eggs. 

The increased use of eggs asserts that more and more egg cartons are used and eventually disposed of. Therefore, this filter of whether egg cartons are biodegradable or not is very important. 

The current waste generation globally stands at a whopping 2 billion tons which may rise to more than 3 billion tons in the coming years. An average is linked with around 5 kg of waste produced each day. 

With these unbelievable figures around waste generation, it is very important to make sure that the waste generated does not last long in the environment because otherwise, the situation will get out of our hands. 

Are egg cartons biodegradable? (3 types of egg cartons) 

It has been seen that egg cartons can be made from a variety of products. Generally, there are three types of egg cartons based on the materials used to make egg cartons. These are: 

  • Pulp egg cartons
  • Foam egg cartons
  • Plastic egg cartons

All these three types come with their economic and environmental values and threats. Pulp cartons are made from paper, water and grass. Since natural materials are involved in the making of pulp egg cartons, these are biodegradable. 

Foam cartons are made from plastic beads. This type of carton became popular in the 1950s. Since plastics are used to make this type of egg carton, it is not biodegradable. These egg cartons may persist for hundreds of years and can cause much damage. 

Plastic cartons, as the name implies, are made from PET plastic. This type of carton is also not biodegradable because of the presence of PET plastics. The presence of PET plastics renders the microbes unable to break down the structure and hence this waste may persist in the environment for hundreds of years. 

How can egg cartons be disposed of?

You may wonder what you can do with the egg cartons that appear to be destined for your dustbin? 

There are many considerations in this regard and this section will cover all of those. 

First and foremost, it is very important to consume eggs in a sustainable manner because this is what sustainability is all about. Being considerate of the present while also being thoughtful about the future. 

Secondly, you need to know what is the right way to dispose of egg cartons. Since most of the egg cartons can be recycled, you need to dispose of egg cartons in blue-coloured dustbins which are intended only for recycled waste. 

There are, generally, three types of dustbins based on the waste. First, we have green-coloured dustbins that are intended for biodegradable waste. If you have egg cartons that are made from pulp or cardboard, you need to dispose of those egg cartons in green-coloured dustbins. 

Then we have blue-coloured dustbins that are intended for recyclable waste. If your egg cartons are made from foam or PET plastic which are not biodegradable but recyclable, then you need to dispose of such egg cartons in blue-coloured dustbins. 

Lastly, we have black-coloured dustbins that are intended for domestic hazardous waste like waste from hospitals or sanitary pads. You should not dispose of your egg cartons in black-coloured dustbins because such dustbins are not intended for egg cartons. 

What are some uses of egg cartons?

You may also wonder other than right disposal, what other options do I have in regard to egg cartons that I have. Here are some options that you might consider: 

  • You can use egg cartons to feed birds
  • You can use egg cartons to organise your stuff like jewellery or hardware
  • You can use egg cartons as a laptop or phone stand
  • You can use egg cartons as a paint tray 
  • You can use egg cartons as a snack tray
  • You can use egg cartons for decoration purposes
  • You can use egg cartons to create aesthetic quality in your living room 
  • You can use egg cartons as mini plant pots 
  • You can use egg cartons as a compost 
  • You can use egg cartons as a replacement for packing peanuts and save you money and the environment 

Conclusion

It is concluded that egg cartons made from pulp are biodegradable whereas egg cartons made from PET plastic or foam are not biodegradable. 

Egg cartons can be recycled and hence proper disposal of egg cartons is very important in making sure that the environment is not harmed. 

Egg cartons are also of good utilitarian value and can be used for a variety of domestic uses saving both money and the environment 

Frequently Asked Questions: Are egg cartons biodegradable?

How long do egg cartons take to degrade?

Pulp egg cartons may degrade by microbes in about 2-4 weeks depending upon external conditions. Plastic egg cartons may take hundreds of years. 

What is the most common type of egg carton?

As per research, Egg cartons made from pulped paper and polystyrene are the most common. 

References

  • Galic, A., Pliestic, S., Filipovic, D., Kovacev, I., Copec, K., Janjecic, Z., & Bedekovic, D. (2018). Mechanical properties of ten-egg boxes made of different materials. Journal of food science and technology, 55(4), 1325-1330.
  • McCargar, M., Burton, H., & Perry, C. (2005). Ecological Footprint: Eggs.

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