Can You Recycle Egg Cartons?

After a week of delicious egg-based breakfasts, what do you do with the remaining empty carton?

Your first thought may be to simply throw it in the trash, but is this wise?

Can You Recycle Egg Cartons?

It’s one of those items that tends to cause a lot of confusion when it comes to disposal, which is why I’m doing a deep dive on the subject right here, right now.

Here, we’ll be discussing what egg cartons are made of, if they qualify for recycling, and what you can do with your old ones that are perhaps building up in the corner of your kitchen.

Let’s get to it!

What Are Egg Cartons Made Out Of?

Some may feel that this is a silly question, as most egg cartons are crafted from simple cardboard… but not all of them.

Sure, the chances are the eggs you pick up from the store or your local farm are indeed made out of cardboard, but there are many out there that are made out of either plastic or a foam material.

As you might have guessed, the cardboard variant can absolutely be recycled, as it’s just a specialist formulation of paper, and paper is just trees.

Plastic gets a pretty bad rep in environmental circles, and for good reason too, but even these egg cartons are usually highly recyclable.

The bad egg here, so to speak, is the foam carton.

They may well provide the most cushioning for the eggs within, preventing the odd breakage, but they will not be accepted by the typical city/township recycling plant.

And here’s the really annoying thing… styrofoam cartons are actually technically recyclable.

However, the process is quite costly, and as there really isn’t all that much styrofoam for recycling facilities to deal with compared to cardboard and plastic, they don’t get the funds to process it.

It’s for this reason that it’s best to stick with your cardboard or plastic egg cartons.

If your favorite egg brand uses styrofoam, quit buying them, and if you have the time, send the company a letter explaining why your loyalties have shifted.

Is Styrofoam Really That Bad For The Environment?

Styrofoam is a petroleum-based synthetic plastic that takes at least 500 years to break down in a landfill, so it’s not great for Mother Earth.

What’s more, we need more throw-away plastic like a hole in the head (or the ozone layer, as the case actually is).

However, if you’re lucky, you may be able to find some sort of curbside collection service that does deal with this material.

Always ask around to see what kind of recycling operations are in play in your neighborhood, as you may not have to give up your favorite eggs after all.

How Can You Recycle Your Egg Cartons?

The easiest way for you to recycle your egg cartons is to simply collect them up with the rest of your recyclables and wait for collection by the recycling initiative of the local area.

But just to be safe, before you add your carton to your cardboard/paper recycling, always check it for clues that it’s safe to be there.

Keep an eye out for the three green arrows in a loop, as that’s the universal recycle-safe symbol.

Catch a glimpse of that, and as long as you confirm that your local recycling plant accepts egg cartons, you’re good to go, but curbside collection is by no means your only option.

Cardboard egg cartons can almost always be composted, as they’re completely biodegradable and harmless to the environment.

To do so, simply add them to your compost bin and agitate them once every so often to help spread them into the bulk of the contained materials and stave off mold.

Are Cardboard Or Plastic Egg Cartons Better For The Environment?

Are Cardboard Or Plastic Egg Cartons Better For The Environment?

Plastic egg cartons are fully recyclable, but the process requires a fair bit of energy, far more than is required to recycle cardboard egg cartons.

Although plastics are indeed recyclable, if you really want to give the planet a break, go with cardboard every time.

Are There Any Cardboard Egg Cartons That Can’t Be Recycled?

Nine times out of ten, your cardboard egg cartons are recyclable, but there are a couple of instances where they will not qualify for processing:

Soiled Cartons

Soiled cardboard egg cartons will not be recycled.

This means that if one of the eggs broke inside the carton and seeped into the fibers, it will not be reused by a recycling plant, and will instead, be sent to the landfill.

So, try your best to keep those eggs intact and the cartons nice and clean.

Fiber Deterioration

At a certain point, the fibers in both cardboard and plastic cartons become so broken down, that they cannot be recycled anymore.

If your cartons are composed of these final stage fibers, it may just be the end of the road for them.

This is something to be celebrated more than lamented, however, as it means the materials have been used to their full potential.

How Else Can We Deal With Egg Cartons?

Egg cartons are actually pretty useful things to have around, especially the cardboard versions.

They can be used for all kinds and crafts. Here are just a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing.

Sound Dampening

Have you ever seen inside a recording studio? The walls are always covered with what looks like foam egg cartons.

You can replicate this at home by sticking lots of cardboard or styrofoam egg cartons on your wall.

Granted, this isn’t the most attractive interior design look, but it will help with the acoustics of a room if you’re trying to record some music or a podcast.


If you source your eggs from a local farm, they may allow you to bring back the same egg carton time and time again to be replenished.

Seed Housing

Egg cartons make cozy little homes for seeds during germination!

Packaging Materials

Do you often sell things online? Egg cartons can help pack out the space between your goods and the boxes you send them in.

Final Thoughts

There you have it, folks — for the most part, egg cartons can indeed be recycled, but you should do some research before attempting it.

Alternatively, if you really want to do your part for the environment, you could stop eating eggs altogether, but simply being mindful about which cartons/eggs you buy and how you dispose of the packaging can still have a hugely positive impact on our shared home.

Jenna Bates
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