Though a form of the standard egg carton was said to have been developed in the early 1900s by a Liverpudlian, credit for the current iteration of the carton goes to Joseph Coyle, a British Columbia newspaper editor, reportedly to solve a dispute over eggs breaking during delivery from a local farmer.
All this to say that the basic grey cardboard egg carton, typically made from a product known as ‘molded pulp,’ is strong enough to get your eggs from store to home as well as being both recyclable and sustainable. It also has the added benefit of opening easily so you can check and make sure none of the eggs are cracked before you buy them.
So it was with no small degree of incredulity that I recently noticed my local big-box store (who I won’t name but with a nod to the Pixar people I’ll refer to as ‘Buy-N-Large’) had stopped selling their 18-pack of eggs in favour of two 12-packs, in cardboard, the pair vacuum-sealed in clear plastic wrap.
Two things – in world that’s already choking in petroleum products, do we really need to wrap up cardboard egg cartons in plastic and, how the heck am I supposed to check my eggs before I buy them?
I tweeted a photo to the Buy-N-Large corporate head office and was told the company was, “…currently looking at reviewing the packaging in an effort to make it more sustainable.” I know what’s more sustainable – the very cardboard cartons they’re already sitting in.
A phone call to the local outlet was answered by a pleasant but detached young man who was, in all fairness, probably a little too busy to listen to someone ranting away about egg cartons wrapped in plastic.
“And what if I get home to find out three of my eggs are cracked?” I asked. “Do I show up at the customer service counter with my receipt and three broken eggs? ‘Cause trust me, I’ll do it!”
“No,” he sighed. “Bring back the whole two dozen and we’ll give you another two dozen.”
So sure, I’ll add to the carbon footprint by driving my eggs back to the store to exchange them for another two dozen that are wrapped in plastic that I still can’t check before buying them. This is not a step towards sustainability, or even towards logic.
We recently received news that China will no longer be accepting shipments of the recycling that we’ve been sending over for decades. The reasons are myriad and complex but reportedly include the fact that we, in Canada, don’t do a great job of actually cleaning and sorting our recyclables – most of us just chuck it in the bin and, conscience cleared, go buy another plastic bottle of water.
While some municipalities had, in previous years, implemented programs accepting Number 6 polystyrene products for recycling, those measures have been halted, perhaps in light of China’s decision. Unfortunately, this particular plastic is ubiquitous, used everywhere from food packaging to disposable cutlery, single-serving yogurt containers and CD holders and polystyrene recycling facilities are comparatively sparse.
Eggs are a relatively cheap source of protein, protected and packaged by nature’s design. Their shells and even their cardboard cartons are compostable. Wrap the whole damn thing in clear plastic shrink wrap when we’re already drowning in the stuff and we’ve just taken another step backwards on the evolutionary scale.
Happy Earth Day.