[OPINION] Eggs Cartons, Over Easy

Alert “06880” reader/ardent preservationist Bob Weingarten has been thinking about recycling — not just old homes, but egg cartons. He writes:

Whenever I go to a Westport supermarket to buy eggs, I see 3 different methods to packaging. (The exception is Trader Joe’s, which only sells eggs in cardboard cartons.)

Eggs are packaged in either Styrofoam, plastic with a paper advertisement on top, or cardboard cartons. Prices range from about $2.29 to over $6. Cardboard packaged eggs are the least expensive.

But that’s not the issue.

I’m concerned about the type of packaging used for eggs. Styrofoam and plastic cartons are non-recyclable; cardboard cartons can be recycled. Non-recyclable waste is a big — and costly — issue.

(Photo/Bob Weingarten)

I talked with RTM members Dick Lowenstein and Andrew Colabella. Andrew said that enforcing a town ordinance to restrict egg carton packaging is not possible. A packaging ordinance can only be enforced if the eggs were packaged on town premises.

I believe we need to do something.  There are 3 alternatives.

  1. Enact a town ordinance. I think this is possible. Westport passed an ordinance banning plastic bags, although they were not created in Westport.
  2. Encourage residence to only purchase eggs in cardboard cartons.  I switched to cardboard recently, and have no problems with the eggs. After using all the eggs, I recycle the cardboard carton. Very easy!
  3. Encourage our supermarkets to only sell eggs in a cardboard carton, as Trader Joe’s has done.

The use of cardboard cartons does not affect the taste of eggs. But it does reduce the amount of waste we place in landfills, and saves the town money for waste disposal.

32 responses to “[OPINION] Eggs Cartons, Over Easy

  1. If folks simply stop buying the styrofoam packed eggs, they will soon disappear from the shelves…how easy is that? Like drugs, it’s the user, NOT the seller who is the culprit.

  2. Consumer choice may solve some problems, but not all. The single consumer doesn’t always bear all the negative consequences of the use or consumption of a product. If a neighbor gets up early Sunday morning to cut some logs with a gas-powered chainsaw, he or she doesn’t have to pay for the cost of the lost sleep of the residents of adjoining properties. Sometimes a conversation causes neighbors to consider the negative consequences of their activities and change their behavior; sometimes it doesn’t. That is probably why some towns have enacted ordinances to prohibit certain conduct during the night and early morning hours. At the risk of egging on the anti-regulation crowd, sometimes regulation is necessary to create a better world.

  3. I agree totally. Theres absolutely no need to use styrofoam/plastic. if one is afraid of breakage just check before you buy and put eggs on top. I only buy my eggs from our local farm, Belta, and we return our cardboard containers. – reusesble😊 FYI egg carton are great for kids craft, could donate to local preschools

  4. Not really a landfill issue. What isn’t recycled goes to the Bridgeport plant and is burned and a portion recovered as electricity. The ash (slag) that is left goes to a landfill, but I doubt these cartons produce any meaningful amount of ash.

    • Excellent read. Thanks for posting.
      I also shared a link from Sauder’s Eggs below which is a popular brand and private label in our area.

    • Thanks for posting this, would never have known. Unexpected good news!

  5. I couldn’t agree more! I am always conscious about the packaging of the food I buy. I especially dislike seeing everything wrapped in plastic….is it necessary to encase a head of broccoli, cucumber or cauliflower in plastic wrap? Such a waste… Kudos to Trader Joe’s for taking a lead on this as a business…but as consumers, we drive the market…if we can refuse to buy the styrofoam and the plastic wrapped goods, then the sellers will be forced to rethink their practices.

  6. Dan, my non-profit Future Frogmen would be interested in getting involved with championing this initiative. It is so obviously a smart change we should make. Let’s discuss? Richard

  7. This is from Sauder’s Eggs which also another popular brand and private in our region.

  8. As Dan knows, I rarely weigh in on anything related to politics—but I feel compelled here.

    Your intentions—while admirable in some respects—seem completely misdirected here.

    Since environmental issues are so important to you—and you have the health, energy, and time to devote to this specific issue on local packaging—it would seem to me that your energy and time would be far more productive if rechanneled into one thing: helping defeat President Trump, whose legacy with respect to climate change will significantly outlast his term in office if he wins in November. There are a variety of ways you can volunteer to help out with efforts to increase voter turnout in key states, etc.

    And, even if the Democratic candidate should wind up being Bernie Sanders, whom I have some major issues with, my position would be absolutely the same.

    Your efforts to change local packaging will, for all intents and purposes, be completely meaningless if Trump remains in office for another four years.

  9. For me, thoughtful regulation is crucial as, of course is a thoughtful and active populace. We all should think before we purchase and express views to all who could have an impact, other consumers, store operators and owners and leaders at all levels. Also, be sure to compliment those who try to do the right thing. Will much change, who knows. However, it is important to try.
    Don Bergmann

  10. Bob, your below statement is incorrect.

    “Styrofoam and plastic cartons are non-recyclable”

    Firstly the foam packing you see is not Styrofoam. It’s EPS (expanded polystyrene). Styrofoam is a Dow Chemical brand name that is solely used for insulation in buildings. EPS is 100% recyclable – Google it.

    The majority of clear plastic packing you see is PET (polyethylene terephthalate). This is also 100% recyclable.

    If we are going to have a discussion on food packing we should at least get our facts straight from the outset.

    • Correct. I just read about these terms.

    • Arline Gertzoff

      The comments about other materials besides cardboard being recyclable are indeed correct .I just checked in my frig and it was clearly marked.It would be far better to direct our energies to getting the state of CT and all 169 towns and municipalities to ban Roundup and similar products They are far more toxic than egg cartons .

    • Unfortunately even if they are recyclable most of our plastics, etc are no longer being recycled. We have a surplus of plastic waste and the counties that were accepting our exported plastics have now shut the door. Check out the 60 minutes segment on plastics in our oceans. It’s terrifying!

  11. Rosemarie Corr

    No politics from me. Just a simple suggestion: any farmer’s market in Westport and/or Fairfield has an egg seller. There is an egg seller on Bayberry Lane in Westport. Please recycle your CARDBOARD egg cartons there, or with any egg seller at any farmer’s market. They will be thrilled and, as an added bonus, it will help them to keep their overhead down and will result in keeping prices down. Please consider this!

  12. Bob Weingarten

    Henry, thanks for your comments on both, what I called the stryofoam cartons, and the plastic cartons, but I believe that almost all people believe that both cartons are not recyclable and throw them into normal garbage. I may be wrong but while using the recycle bins at the town transfer station I have never seen either of these egg cartons in the recycle bins.

    Second, my use of the term styrofoam is correct. I used google to search the term EPS and this is the first reference I found: “EPS (Expanded Polystyrene) or as many know by The Dow Chemical Company’s trademarked name, STYROFOAM, is an extremely lightweight product that is made of expanded polystyrene beads”.

    Third, prior to sending this to Dan I did look at several plastic cartons and didn’t see the triangular plastic recycling symbol on the cartons.

  13. Pete and Gerry’s plastic egg cartons are 100% recyclable. But the real problem is China is no longer purchasing our recyclable waste.

  14. Michael Calise

    Very Simple, as others have stated, If we don’t buy them they will disappear over night. I only buy eggs in paper cartons and pass them on to local egg producers for re-use. All attempts to resolve these issues by regulations are commendable because they have the potential of resolving and highlighting the problem. BUT!!!!…. We are disingenuous in a huge way when we allow the Recreation Commission to replace all of the environmentally sound, and incredibly long lasting, wooden picnic tables and benches at our beaches and recreation areas with plastic tables and benches !!!!!!

  15. I just checked recyclect.com. The plastic cartons ARE recyclable but the Styrofoam, obviously, are not.

    • Unfortunately even if they are recyclable most of our plastics are no longer being recycled. We have a surplus of plastic waste and the counties that were accepting our exported plastics have now shut the door. Check out the 60 minutes segment on plastics in our oceans. It’s terrifying!

  16. Elisabeth Keane

    Sauder’s pasture raised eggs are available at Stew’s in Norwalk. Don’t know about other Stew’s locations. Egg cartons are marvelous for other things. Recently, I gave some empty egg cartons to a friend who collects miniatures and had run out of appropriate storage containers. Egg cartons can house a young child’s costume jewelry (at the dress-up age) so it is organized, not underfoot and away from curious pets, while accessible for the child. This also works for an adolescent to organize her jewelry easily and safely (if she does not already have a proper jewelry box) and it is great for earrings, but not large hoops or long dangly earrings. When I was doing some tidying up, I needed assortments of hooks and tacks and rather than traipsing back and forth to each storage container I placed a few of each item in an empty egg carton and carried that around with me. Or give some empty cartons to the Girl Scouts for those who are working on their art badges, or offer some to the Y for their childrens art classes (if they have them) or to Earthplace for their activities for kids or for other uses they might have, or keep them in your home shop, if you have one, for those projects that have small parts that could scatter as a repair is attempted. Garden stuff too. Soon, I hope to resume exploring the last few of several boxes of memorabilia that belonged to a 110 year old relative. During my work on the previous boxes there were many assorted “bits” that either required their own boxes (which would have been too bulky to store) or other ways to keep them safe and organized. Egg carton! I wrote a label, taped it to the lid, put a rubber band around it. Perfect.

  17. Excellent suggestion to buy only the pulp cardboard egg cartons. AND, there’s an even more sustainable thing to do with them than recycling the cartons (which costs the town $) and that is: compost them at home. The cartons will break down in your compost pile in no time at all. P.S. if you’ve been meaning to get into composting, come to Wakeman Town Farm on March 2 at 7pm to learn how. Check their website to learn more.

  18. Deb Rosenfield

    You can also start seedling plants in the cardboard egg cartons and in most cases, transplant directly into the soil in the Spring.

  19. I’ve always kept my egg cartons to us for my own eggs. Just a thought you guys might think about getting (2) hens and not buy eggs, they will mostly lay (2) eggs a day that adds up pretty quick. You’ll have more eggs than you’ll know what to do with.

  20. Thank you for your eco-friendly post. Cardboard boxed eggs all the way!

    To further this discussion on how to make our town more earth friendly I suggest we rate local restaurants on their eco-friendly efforts and commitment to zero waste and recycling. Similar to the cleanliness rating system for restaurants in some cities. Has anyone seen this done before?

  21. Agree! I’m completely on board with purchasing cardboard packaged eggs, supporting small farms who sell the eggs, returning/reusing/recycling containers. Kudos to Trader Joe’s (as always).

    If we take the caring one step further, with concern for the chickens as well as the environment, it’s PASTURE RAISED we will buy. “Cage Free” doesn’t necessarily mean what it implies.

    Thanks to everyone for setting the trend!

  22. Of course, recyclable are best but never forget reuse! Please clean and bring your plastic or styrofoam cartons to a nursery school, daycare center or even give them to neighbors with kids. Great for craft projects and storage of small items. Recycling is great but we need to think about reusing evrything. Just think outside the box.

  23. Save those cardboard egg cartons. The ones that hold a dozen eggs are welcomed by egg farmers who otherwise have to buy egg cartons. The Westport farmers market will take them. Lori has chickens and is always looking for cartons. Don’t recycle, reuse!