Whether you love to bake or just love them for breakfast, eggs are likely to be a regular item on your shopping list. Apparently, the UK cracks through 36 million eggs a day!
You might know what to do with the egg itself but what about the packaging they come in? Are egg boxes recyclable? Can you compost an egg box?
There are two main types of egg boxes: those made from cardboard and those from plastic.
For the majority of this article we’ll be looking at cardboard egg box recycling but we’ll also discuss at plastic egg boxes towards the end and let you know your best options.
Are egg boxes recyclable?
Cardboard egg boxes are made from recycled cardboard, paper and newspaper, which is turned into pulp and moulded into a box. They are sometimes known as pulp cartons.
Pulp of course is the mixture of recycled paperboard with water to turn into a mush.
This being said, egg boxes are one of the most recyclable materials out there.
Moulded cardboard egg boxes are considered to be a very sustainable material as they are made from recycled materials that can be recycled again. This circular production method with little to no waste is great for the environment. Unlike stainless steel, cardboard isn’t infinitely recyclable but it can certainly be recycled a number of times before the wood fibres eventually lose their quality.
In order to recycle cardboard, it must be uncontaminated. This means the cardboard egg box it needs to be clean and free of any food residue.
The great thing about eggs is that they will not generally contaminate the egg box they sit in, unlike say a very greasy pizza. Egg boxes also don’t need any additional, non-recyclable materials to pack the eggs – hopefully the organic type – in.
Even if an egg breaks, you can either wash the broken egg off, put it in your compost pile or food waste bin, or put it in a bowl and make some scrambled eggs!
How to recycle egg boxes?
Egg boxes can go in the recycling bin to be collected by the local council authorities during your usual collection. Put your cardboard egg box into the same recycling bin where you put your paper and card.
From your recycling bin, your egg boxes will make their way to the recycling centre to be processed and hopefully made into a new cardboard egg box or another recycled pulp product.
You can also recycle egg boxes in other ways:
- Keep a couple of boxes to have as seedling pots to grow veg or plants – have a look at some easy to grow house plants here
- If you collect eggs from a local farm, reuse your egg box by refilling it with new eggs. This will save the need of a new box being used. If you don’t already do this, maybe try and source a local farm where you can collect fresh eggs.
They are also lots of other more crafty ways to repurpose an egg box. Just remember, if you have children and want decorate and paint an egg box, it generally won’t be recycle after unless you have used an eco-friendly paint or glue, which can then be composted afterwards.
Can you compost egg boxes?
Yes, you can compost cardboard egg boxes as cardboard is biodegradable.
As egg boxes are made from recycled types of paper and cardboard, which is originally sourced from wood, they are naturally biodegradable and compostable. This is also true for toilet roll tubes and kitchen roll.
Being compostable, it means the cardboard will break down at the same rate as the rest of your organic material into non-toxic, natural components that will then enrich the soil. This is how compostable bags work too.
Any material coming from trees is a carbon rich source. This means that cardboard egg boxes will mostly break down into carbon and is regarded as a brown compost material.
If you want to use cardboard egg boxes in your garden compost pile or compost bin, it’s best to rip the egg box into pieces first and soak in water. Both of these helping hands will help to speed up the compost process.
While you’re there, you can also compost your egg shells or put these in your food waste bin.
Can plastic egg boxes be recycled?
Cardboard egg boxes are the most popular type of packaging for eggs, but other egg box materials also exist.
As more people turned to baking during the pandemic, there was a national shortage of cardboard egg boxes, which led to some supermarkets using plastic.
You’ve probably seen the see-through PET plastic egg boxes and even ones made from polystyrene.
Plastic egg boxes tend to be fully recyclable. However, they are not as environmentally friendly as cardboard due to the initial extraction of raw materials (fossil fuels), the manufacturing process and lifecycle being shorter than recycled cardboard. Read more about how plastic is made here.
Polystyrene egg boxes are recyclable too but not through your household recycling bin. All polystyrene recycling requires a specialist service and the majority of local councils will not deal with them.
When it comes to the type of material, cardboard is better for the environment and more eco-friendly than plastic.
Cardboard egg boxes are highly recyclable. They are also compostable and reusable.
Of course, the egg boxes require energy and materials to make initially, but the range of eco-friendly options to deal with them after use makes cardboard egg boxes one of the most sustainable packaging materials.