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Paper or Plastic?

A question that we get a lot usually goes like this: “I love your eggs and your commitment to animal welfare and the environment, but why do you use plastic egg cartons? Isn’t that worse for the environment?”

It’s an excellent question. We’ve all come to see plastic as bad. It’s derived from a non-renewable source (oil), it doesn’t decompose for a very long time, and these days, a lot of it is winding into the oceans (see Pacific Garbage Patch and Microbeads Pollution). So it’s understandable that it has a bad reputation.

On the other hand, the molded pulp cartons and the polystyrene foam cartons are not environmental bargains either, for many of the same reasons. So what’s a well-meaning person to do?

We asked Quantis, a Canadian research company specializing in environmental impact of products, to do a complete Comparative Environmental Life Cycle Assessment of Egg Cartons for us in 2012.

Quantis looked across the raw material sourcing, manufacturing, packaging, transportation, and end of life/recycling aspects for RPET (our recycled PET clear package), virgin PET, Recycled Molded Pulp (RMP) and Polystyrene (commonly known as styrofoam). They scored that as a total Carbon/Climate Change footprint score based on all of those life stages. They also scored them on the basis of Human Health, Ecosystem Quality, and Resource Depletion measures.

The RPET carton that we use was determined to be superior, or vastly superior, to both the Molded Pulp and Polystyrene as a whole, and across all of the individual life stages, with the one exception that it had a slightly higher manufacturing impact than recycled pulp. It is worth noting that the worst option, was typically the PET plastic made from virgin plastic. That’s because of the high amount of fossil fuels required both as energy and raw material in its production. This is what large 2-liter soda bottles are made from (so think about that the next time you’re considering buying soda). We take the recycled material from those containers to make our cartons. The tri-fold PET also has an important consumer benefit in that it provides the best protection for the eggs while allowing you to see the unbroken eggs without opening the carton in the store.

Once used, our cartons can then be placed right back in the recycling stream for another trip through the system. Paper pulp can also be recycled. Styrofoam all goes to the landfill to wait for the end of time.

So in total, while we wish we could sell our eggs in wooden boxes or wicker baskets that were re-used over an over, we feel as though we’ve arrived at the best possible solution we can for the time being. We ask that you always recycle your Pete & Gerry’s cartons after use and we can continue to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible. And thank you for bringing our eggs home in a re-usable canvas bag as well.

13 responses

  1. Eugene Fennema says:

    That makes perfect sense, glad you took the time to explain that !

  2. Love when manufacturers do their due diligence. Now, it is up to consumers to do their part. Recycle!

  3. Christine Pizon says:

    How about biodegradable plastic(made from hemp?)

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      Hi Christine! Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. We don’t have the resources to develop our own biodegradable carton right now, but we’re always appreciative of suggestions to look into. If you happen to know of a supplier for hemp cartons, I’d be glad to pass this information on to our team to further research. Thanks!

  4. joanne says:

    I did not realize the containers you use are recycled plastic! Whew. you may want to advertise that on the packaging?

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      Hi Joanne! We do currently list this on the inside of our carton, but I’d be glad to let our Marketing Team know that you’d like to see this in a more prominent location. Thanks for the feedback!

  5. Valerie Herring says:

    Thank you! I live in Florida and spoke to dairy manager of Publix requesting they carry your eggs. Great to hear it’s already in the works. Presently they only sell cage free and we all know that’s nearly as horrible as caged. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      Thanks for mentioning us to your store manager, Valerie!

  6. Gerry H says:

    Excellent! Thank you for your genuine concerns.

  7. Claire says:

    I worked at Massachusetts DEP (Dept. of Env. Protection) until I retired. I am very happy that you went to all that trouble to find the best package. I will not worry anymore about buying Pete & Gerrys eggs. I also spent summers in New Hampshire growing up. Thank you. More companies should be as conscious as you are of protecting the environment.

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      Thank you for your support, Claire!

  8. Nancy says:

    I agree you need to put something on the cartons. There is no recycling symbol number. My town only takes 1 and 2s and without a number they may just throw in trash, not sure about that but a number would be helpful. Thanks .

    1. Sarah Walls says:

      Hi Nancy! Thanks very much for the feedback. The manufacturer of our recycled cartons has put a triangle with a ‘1’ on the inside of the carton, on the top of one of the egg cups. The cartons themselves are recyclable again and again. I’ll let our team know your thoughts – thanks!

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