Egg cartons are a staple in many households. But when it comes to disposing of these cartons, the question often arises: are egg cartons recyclable? Can you toss them in the recycling bin without a second thought, or is there more to the story? Let’s explore the various materials, considerations, and best practices for eco-friendly disposal.

Types of Egg Carton Materials

Egg cartons come in different materials, each with its own impact on the environment and recycling process. Here are the most common types:

1. Paper Pulp Cartons

Paper-based egg cartons are the most widely used and easily recyclable option. Made from recycled paper, these cartons are both biodegradable and recyclable. They break down naturally over time, making them an environmentally friendly choice.

If you’re interested in composting, check out our guide on How to Compost Paper Egg Cartons.

2. Foam or Polystyrene Cartons

Foam or polystyrene cartons are lightweight and great for insulation, but they pose a challenge in recycling. This material is not easily recyclable in most municipal programs due to its composition.

While not ideal for the environment, foam cartons may be necessary for certain Southern regions that are high in humidity. While not common, if it gets humid enough, paper cartons can start to ‘sweat’. Foam does not have this problem.

For more information, check out our ‘Guide to the Responsible Disposal of Foam and Plastic Egg Cartons‘.

3. Plastic Cartons

Plastic egg cartons are often made from PET plastic, which is recyclable in many areas. However, not all recycling facilities accept this type of plastic. Check with your local recycling program to ensure they can process plastic egg cartons.

Considerations for Recycling Egg Cartons

1. Check for Recycling Symbols

Before tossing your egg carton into the recycling bin, check for recycling symbols or instructions. Some cartons come with clear markings indicating whether they are recyclable or compostable. Look for the chasing arrows symbol, which indicates recyclability, along with any specific instructions from the manufacturer.

2. Remove Food Residue

If you want to recycle your egg cartons properly, it’s crucial to remove any food residue from the carton. This helps prevent contamination in the recycling stream and ensures the carton can be processed effectively. If you’ve got some food waste on the carton, you can simply clean it with a wet napkin or paper towel and allow it to fully dry before recycling.

3. Separate Materials

If your egg carton has a combination of materials, such as paper with a plastic lid, consider separating them for recycling. Some facilities may accept mixed materials, but separating them can improve the chances of your carton being properly recycled.

4. Reuse or Repurpose

Foam and Plastic Egg Cartons: Special Cases

1. Foam (Polystyrene) Cartons

Foam egg cartons present a challenge due to their limited recycling options. While not accepted in most curbside programs, some specialized recycling centers or drop-off locations may take them. Check with local grocery stores or recycling centers to see if they offer foam recycling services.

2. Plastic Egg Cartons

Plastic egg cartons made from PET plastic are generally recyclable, but it’s essential to confirm with your local recycling guidelines. If your area does not accept PET plastic, consider reusing the cartons or seeking out drop-off locations that can process them.

Best Practices for Eco-Friendly Disposal

1. Know Your Local Recycling Rules

Every municipality has its own recycling rules and capabilities. Familiarize yourself with what materials your local program accepts and how they prefer items to be prepared for recycling.

2. Reduce and Reuse

The most effective way to minimize waste is to reduce consumption and reuse items whenever possible. Consider purchasing eggs from local farmers who use returnable cartons.

3. Compost as an Alternative

If recycling options for your egg cartons are limited, composting is an excellent alternative. Paper-based and molded pulp cartons can break down in a compost pile, contributing to nutrient-rich soil.

4. Educate Others

Spread awareness about proper egg carton disposal methods. Share this information with friends, family, and community members to encourage sustainable practices.


If you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle, recycling is a great place to start. While paper-based and some plastic egg cartons are easily recyclable, foam presents a challenge due to its limited recycling options. Remember to check for recycling symbols, remove food residue, and explore reuse possibilities before recycling. When in doubt, refer to your local recycling guidelines or consider composting as an eco-friendly alternative. By making informed choices about egg carton disposal, we can all contribute to a cleaner, greener planet.