Can You Compost Egg Cartons? Everything You Need To Know

Composting is a fantastic way to reduce waste and turn organic materials into nutrient-rich soil, often referred to as “black gold.” Many people are avid composters, diverting kitchen scraps, yard waste, and other organic matter from landfills to create valuable compost for their gardens. However, there’s often confusion about what can and cannot be composted. One common question that arises is whether you can compost egg cartons. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the world of egg cartons, discussing various types and their compostability. By the end, you’ll have a clear understanding of how to make the most of these humble containers in your composting journey.

Image of egg carton with eggs in it, which can be composted if made from the right material.

Understanding Egg Cartons

Egg cartons come in various materials, with the two main types being paper and plastic. The structure and composition of these cartons can significantly impact their suitability for composting. Let’s delve into the different materials and their compostability.

Paper Egg Cartons

Paper egg cartons are the eco-friendly choice when it comes to storing and transporting eggs. They are typically made from paperboard or wood pulp, which are biodegradable materials. This makes paper egg cartons an excellent candidate for composting.

When you toss a paper egg carton into your compost bin, it breaks down relatively quickly due to its organic nature. The paper fibers decompose, adding carbon-rich “brown materials” to your compost heap. These brown materials help balance the carbon-nitrogen compost mix, providing the necessary structure and preventing your pile from becoming too dense. Plus, they absorb excess moisture, maintaining the right conditions for a healthy compost pile.

Plastic Egg Cartons

On the flip side, plastic egg cartons pose a challenge for composting enthusiasts. They are typically made from polystyrene foam, also known as Styrofoam, which is a type of plastic. Styrofoam is not biodegradable and does not break down easily in the composting process. Adding plastic egg cartons to your compost bin can lead to contamination and hinder the decomposition process.

Moreover, plastic egg cartons may contain harmful chemicals that you don’t want seeping into your nutrient-rich soil. For these reasons, it’s best to keep plastic egg containers out of your compost bin and instead consider recycling them. Look for the recycling symbol on the plastic carton to ensure it gets processed appropriately.

Reusable Egg Cartons

In recent years, reusable egg cartons have gained popularity as an eco-conscious alternative to single-use cartons. These can be made from various materials, including plastic and cardboard, but the key is their durability and the ability to use them multiple times.

While reusable egg cartons made from plastic should still be kept out of your compost bin, those made from cardboard are a different story. Cardboard egg boxes can be composted, as they are essentially paper products. Just remember to remove any plastic or metal fasteners, as these are not compostable.

The Composting Process

Now that we’ve clarified which egg cartons can be composted let’s take a closer look at how to actually incorporate them into your composting process.

Breaking Down Egg Cartons

When adding egg cartons to your compost heap, it’s a good idea to tear them into smaller pieces. This will accelerate their decomposition and prevent them from clumping together. Smaller pieces create more surface area for microorganisms to work on, breaking down the material faster.

You can easily tear up old egg cartons by hand or cut them into smaller sections with scissors. This step is especially important for plastic cartons, which may require additional effort to break down due to their non-biodegradable nature.

Mixing with Other Organic Materials

For a healthy compost pile, you’ll want to create a balanced mixture of green and brown materials. Green materials include kitchen scraps, food waste, coffee grounds, and grass clippings, while brown materials include egg cartons, dry leaves, wood chips, and cardboard.

Egg cartons serve as excellent brown materials, contributing carbon to the composting process. Mixing them with green materials provides the essential carbon-nitrogen balance required for efficient decomposition. If you have a lot of egg cartons to compost, consider layering them with green materials to create a balanced and diverse compost heap.

Managing Excess Moisture

Composting can sometimes become too wet, which can slow down the decomposition process and create an unpleasant odor. Egg cartons, being absorbent due to their paper-based composition, can help manage excess moisture in your compost pile. They act as sponges, soaking up water and preventing your compost from becoming waterlogged.

However, if your compost pile tends to be too dry, you might want to soak the egg cartons in water before adding them. This will provide some moisture to the composting process and help the microorganisms thrive.

Food Residue and Egg Shells

Egg cartons often come with some food residue, particularly if you’ve used them to store cracked eggs or other food items. While small amounts of food residue are generally acceptable in compost, it’s a good practice to remove any large or greasy food scraps from the cartons before composting. Greasy pizza boxes, for example, are better off in the recycling bin.

Eggshells, on the other hand, are excellent additions to your compost pile. They provide essential nutrients like calcium and act as a pH buffer, helping to maintain a neutral environment in your compost. Crushed eggshells can be mixed with your egg cartons and other compost materials to enhance the nutrient content of your compost.

Creative Uses for Egg Cartons in Composting

Egg cartons are not just for adding to your compost heap. There are several creative ways to make the most of these containers in your composting journey.

Seed Starters

Paper egg cartons are fantastic for starting seeds. You can cut individual cups from the carton, fill them with potting soil, and plant your seeds. Once your seedlings are ready to be transplanted, you can plant the entire cup, carton and all, directly into your garden. The carton will naturally break down, providing a seamless transition for your new seedlings.

Fire Starters

If you have excess egg cartons and need an easy way to start fires in your fireplace or campfire, they make excellent fire starters. Fill each cup with sawdust, wood shavings, or dryer lint, and pour melted candle wax over them. Once the wax hardens, you can cut the cups into individual fire starters. These are not only effective but also a great way to repurpose old egg cartons.

Carbon Source for Compost

Egg cartons are a great source of carbon, which is essential for maintaining the carbon-nitrogen balance in your compost pile. Whenever you have a surplus of egg cartons, shred them into smaller pieces and use them as brown materials in your compost bin. They’ll help create valuable compost while reducing waste.

What About Styrofoam Egg Cartons?

Styrofoam egg cartons, also known as polystyrene foam, are a common sight in grocery stores. Unfortunately, they are not compostable, and recycling them can be challenging in some areas. Styrofoam is a petroleum-based product and does not break down easily in the environment.

If you find yourself with Styrofoam egg cartons, it’s best to check with your local recycling program to see if they accept them. Some recycling programs have specific drop-off locations for Styrofoam, while others may not accept it at all. When all else fails, the responsible disposal of Styrofoam egg cartons might involve placing them in the regular trash.

A Few Extra Tips

Before we wrap up our discussion on composting egg cartons, here are a few additional tips to keep in mind:

Check Local Recycling Programs

While paper egg cartons are compostable, some local recycling programs may accept them as well. Before composting, check with your local recycling program to see if they have specific guidelines for egg carton disposal. Recycling paper cartons can be a more sustainable option if it’s available in your area.

Mix Egg Cartons with Other Materials

For the best results, mix egg cartons with a variety of organic materials in your compost pile. This diversity helps create a nutrient-rich fertilizer that’s beneficial for your garden. Don’t rely solely on egg cartons; use them as part of a broader composting strategy.

Educate Others

Composting can have a positive impact on the environment, and spreading awareness about it is essential. Consider sharing your knowledge with friends, family, and even local schools. You might inspire others to start their composting journey and reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills.


In summary, composting egg cartons is indeed possible, but the compostability depends on the material of the carton. Paper egg cartons, being biodegradable, are a great addition to your compost bin. They break down relatively quickly, contribute carbon to the composting process, and help manage excess moisture. On the other hand, plastic and Styrofoam egg cartons are not suitable for composting and should be recycled or disposed of properly.

Remember to break down egg cartons into smaller pieces, mix them with a variety of organic materials, and manage excess moisture to maintain a healthy compost pile. Get creative by using egg cartons as seed starters, fire starters, or as a carbon source for your compost.

Composting is an easy way to reduce waste, enrich your garden with nutrient-rich soil, and live a more sustainable lifestyle. So, the next time you enjoy a dozen eggs, consider the humble egg carton’s potential to contribute to a healthier garden and a greener planet. 

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