~ Grassy Roads Farm Life ~
“I have a bunch of empty egg cartons. Would you like them?” is a common question that I get at the farmers market.
My answer always comes as a surprise, “No, it is actually illegal to reuse egg cartons.”
I know, many people will reuse egg cartons, but that doesn’t change the law. The Kentucky statute regarding egg labeling and selling requirements (KRS 260.630.7) specifically states, “Egg cartons cannot be reused.” This statute is reiterated in the Kentucky Farmers Market Manual and Resource Guide under the section titled Small Producer’s Guidelines for Handling and Selling Eggs.
“Why is it illegal?” is always the next question, and it is one I initially asked as well, but the answer makes a lot of sense. First, it is impossible to clean or sterilize an egg carton. If someone did something like crack an egg and put the empty shell back in the carton, there would be no way to know or to clean the carton. Reusing that carton could lead to the spread of salmonella.
Second, if you are selling eggs, then you are required to put your contact information on the carton. This is so that the eggs can be identified if a farm does have a problem, such as the salmonella outbreak that happened back in April 2018. However, if the farmer was reusing egg cartons, then there would be no way to track the issue back to the correct farm.
So while at first it might seem crazy that something like reusing egg cartons is illegal, it is really all about ensuring consumer health and safety. However, that still leaves the question of what should you do with your egg cartons. The answer is, “It depends.”
If the eggs you buy are in Styrofoam or plastic cartons, then crafts or the trashcan are really your only options. I specifically avoid those materials for that reason. The egg cartons I buy for my duck eggs are made out of paper pulp which means they can be composted. My thinking is that even if the cartons can’t be reused as egg cartons, at least they can be turned into something else that is beneficial for my gardens instead of ending up in the landfill.
Shannon Trimboli is a beekeeper, farmer, wildlife biologist, and author. She owns Grassy Roads Farm and Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting. Busy Bee Nursery & Consulting specializes in plants and habitat consulting services for honey bees, native pollinators, and wildlife conservation. In 2018, her first book, Plants Honey Bees Use in the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys, was published. Shannon also writes a weekly blog called Kentucky Pollinators and Backyard Wildlife. The blog features profiles of pollinators and wildlife, tips for attracting pollinators and wildlife, highlights of different plants for pollinators and wildlife, and life on the farm and nursery. You can sign up to have her blog emailed to you.