What is recycling? Are egg cartons recyclable? Recycling is the process or action which can convert wastes into reusable materials. Those materials can be recycled multiple times. It’s a simple and continuous process that can save mother nature and Earth. Recycling can reduce the cost of our daily used goods.
Scientists and environmentalists are working together to invent more efficient and cost-effective ways for recycling wastes. Many big companies are adopting these methods for reducing the cost of production. Adidas is using plastic wastes collected from the sea to produce new shoes and sportswear.
Most of the waste comes from our daily used products. One of these products is egg cartons.
What is Egg Carton?
Egg cartons are boxes for eggs. These cartons are designed specially to carry and protect eggs from damage when you’re bringing them from the superstore. They’re made of paper, cardboard and other recycled materials. Aside from recycling, egg cartons have many more creative uses that can also be considered recycling.
Egg Cartons Waste Rate
In reality, the waste rate of egg cartons is very low. Most of them are recycled. Contaminated egg cartons are not recycled because it will contaminate the whole process. So, you do not need to worry about the waste rate of egg cartons. But if you’re curious about what would happen if we did not recycle them, here is a small hypothesis for you.
On average, a person consumes about 290 eggs per year. That makes 37 egg cartons for one person per year. So, if we multiply this number by the country population, we will get a number bigger than hundreds of thousands. Now imagine what would have happened if all of these wasted cartons got dumped into the ocean. Our seas would have been destroyed, and nature would perish.
Fortunately, our scientists have invented ways of recycling egg cartons. We can recycle the old cartons to produce new ones or make different use of them.
Types of Egg Cartons
Egg cartons come in different sizes, designs. Each of them is made of different types of raw materials. We mainly produce three different types of egg cartons.
Paper Egg Cartons, Plastic Egg Cartons and Styrofoam Egg Cartons.
There are other types of egg cartons, like rigid plastic egg cartons. But they’re not used regularly. Designers are coming up with new designs for egg cartons to reduce the number of raw materials and energy used for their production. Recently, a Hungarian student, Otília Erdélyi, has designed an egg carton which is made out of single-piece cardboard.
Egg Cartons Recycling
Egg carton recycling is quite easier than recycling other materials. Different egg cartons require different recycling methods because they’re made of different raw materials.
We will discuss the process of recycling egg cartons made of paper, plastic and Styrofoam.
Recycling Paper Egg Cartons
Paper egg cartons are the most popular and widely used. It’s both cost-effective and eco-friendly. Hence, paper egg cartons are the most recycled egg cartons.
Paper egg cartons are made of cardboard, pulp and paper. As most of it’s cardboard, we use the cardboard recycling process for paper egg cartons.
The cardboard recycling process is a step-by-step process. Let us look at those steps in detail.
Step 1: Collection
Old and used paper egg cartons are collected and brought to the cardboard recycling plant. These cartoons, along with other papers and cardboards, are collected from trash bins, junkyards etc.
Keep in mind that only the clean and non-coated cardboards are used for recycling. Paper egg cartons containing food wastes are not accepted because it will contaminate the recycling process.
Step 2: Sorting
In this process, the collected cardboards are sorted into two categories. Corrugated cardboard and Boxboard.
Corrugated cardboards are stiff cardboards that are used for packaging goods for shipping. Boxboards are thin and comparatively weak cardboards which are used for packaging our daily goods like cereal boxes.
Paper egg cartons are sorted into the boxboard category because of its thin materials.
The main purpose of sorting is to grade the materials for commercial use.
Step 3: Shredding and Pulping
After sorting, each category goes through the same recycling process separately. First, they go into the shredding unit, then the pulping unit.
In the shredding unit, cardboards are broken down into small pieces in a shredding machine. This also breaks down the fibers of the boards.
After shredding, these pieces are mixed with water and chemicals. This is called pulping. The chemicals break down the fiber more, and it creates a slurry substance with the water. This substance is mixed with new pulps to make it stable and rigid.
Step 4: Filtering, Decontamination and De-inking
The pulp materials are brought into the filtering unit to get rid of all unwanted materials.
First, it’s filtered to clean off all strings, glue and other visible contaminants. Then it’s sent into a centrifuge chamber to get rid of all plastics and metals.
After all this filtering, the only thing left to do is filtering out the colors. It’s called a de-inking. A floatation device uses chemicals to remove dye and inks from the pulps. It also cleans the pulp and prepares it for the final stage.
Step 5: Finishing stage
The refined pulp is merged with new materials. Then it is placed on a heated conveyor belt. The heat dries the pulp. While heating up, the pulp goes through a hydraulic press machine. It compresses the excessive water out of the pulp. The pressure also helps to form long rolls of pulp sheet. These sheets are called linerboards.
These linerboards are cut and glued together in layers to create new cardboards. These cardboards can be used to make new paper egg cartons.
In the case of producing boxboards, these linerboards are supplied directly to manufacturers who shape these boards to create their design of boxboards.
This is how we can recycle old paper egg cartons to create new ones. You just need to make sure that they’re not contaminated and dirt free. Besides this, paper egg cartons can be used in many creative ways.
For example, you can easily make fertilizer out of it at home for your garden. All you need to do is put it into a compost pile. In addition, you can use eggshells too. After a few days, you’ll get rich fertilizers.
You can also use it in many DIY projects such as decoration and use it as a paint palette. You can mix it with water to create paper clay, which can be used for making sculptures.
Now let’s look at the recycling process of plastic egg cartons.
Recycling Plastic Egg Cartons
Plastic egg cartons are relatively stronger and durable than paper egg cartons. They’re not biodegradable. So throwing them away will not magically create any fertilizers for your garden. You can either send them to your nearest local recycling company, or you can use them in other ways.
Plastic recycling is very important because if we throw away plastic after single-use, it will ultimately affect the environment. You may have seen the news of a dolphin starving to death because of a plastic ring on its beak. There are more tragic stories of how plastic wastes are destroying natural life. About 100,000 marine mammals die because of plastic waste. That is why developed and underdeveloped countries are taking initiatives to reduce plastic waste and recycle it.
Plastic recycling has many methods. The simplest method has two steps.
Step 1: Collecting and Sorting
Plastic wastes are collected from the cities and brought to the recycling factory. These recyclable plastics are sorted out and then washed to remove all kinds of contaminants.
Step 2: Melting and reshaping
After getting rid of all contaminants, the clean plastics are melted and reshaped into new products. Plastics still retain their components after heating, so there is nothing to be worried about.
In some cases, the clean plastics are shredded into small pieces and then melted down. It increases efficiency. But either way, both of them will give you the same output.
Besides making new products, scientists have discovered another way of recycling plastic. That is to produce fuel. It’s a revolutionary process, and it can reduce the pressure on fossil fuels. All you need to do is put plastics in a container. Remove all oxygen (O2) out of it and heat it. You’ll have a good amount of fuel for your vehicle.
You can also use it as a storage box, desert decoration box and whatnot.
Now, let us talk about Styrofoam egg cartons.
Recycling Styrofoam Egg Cartons
To be honest, Styrofoam egg cartons cannot be recycled. That is because Styrofoam is considered as a contamination in the waste recycling process.
If you want to recycle Styrofoam, you must clean and remove all kinds of waste from its surface. But it’s difficult to do it because Styrofoam is very porous.
Recycling Styrofoam will ultimately lead to huge losses instead of savings. Styrofoam is 95% air. So, you’ll only be able to recycle 5% of what you’re paying for. It’s a huge loss of both money and energy. As a result, recycling companies do not accept and recycle Styrofoam even though they’re clean.
So, in conclusion, Styrofoam egg cartons cannot be recycled. But you can make other creative use of Styrofoam. It’s a great replacement for foam. So, you can shove in a lot of Styrofoam into your sofa, chair and cushions. It can also be used to fill in vacant drums, decorations and many more. You can decorate lamps, design sculptures, showpieces etc.
There are other kinds of egg cartons, like rigid plastic egg cartons. They’re used multiple times without recycling. But when they break, they’re recycled using the method of recycling plastic.
Egg cartons are definitely recyclable. You just have to make sure they have no food waste and other contaminants on it. Aside from recycling, you can use them in creative ways like decoration, crafting etc.
So, do not throw away your egg cartons. Recycle or reuse them. Save the environment and be a hero of nature.