The country’s leading organic egg brand has created the industry’s first reusable egg carton.
If you have zero-waste in mind when you do your shopping, egg cartons may not seem the worst of the waste. Paper pulp cartons can be recycled or composted; PET plastic ones are made of recycled plastic (often bottles) and can be recycled again.
But consider this: Hens in the United States last year produced 95.3 billion table eggs. Assuming those eggs all got dozen-sized cartons and applying some rough math, all those eggs would require around 8 billion cartons a year. That is so many cartons.The thing about eggs is that they are fragile, and so we rely on that packaging to minimize food waste. The idea of going to the supermarket and buying eggs in bulk using a reusable container seems unworkable – but now, Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs is making a go of it with the introduction of the industry's first reusable egg carton.
The company says that the initiative is an effort to further reduce the environmental impacts of its packaging and inspire consumers to adopt new behaviors to lessen their carbon footprint.
“While we are confident in the sustainability of our current carton, which is made from 100% recycled plastic and has less environmental impact than the Styrofoam or molded pulp cartons used by conventional egg brands, we continue to challenge ourselves to find even better ways to improve our environmental stewardship,” said Jesse Laflamme, Pete and Gerry’s Organic Eggs CEO. “Reusable cartons are a logical next step in our ongoing commitment to sustainability, moving consumer behavior from recycling to reuse."
The cartons are made from recycled, durable, BPA-free plastic and cost $2.99. Once a consumer has one, they simply fill it up, over and over again, from the Pete and Gerry’s display of loose eggs, as you can see in the top photo. The loose eggs are cheaper that the standard dozen, allowing the reusable carton to pay for itself over time.
It's a great innovation, and if anyone was going to do it, it's not that surprising to see it being done by Pete and Gerry's. As the company explained to me, after college in the 90s, Laflamme returned to his third-generation family farm to find it on the brink of bankruptcy, thanks to industrial-scale egg producers who cornered the market and forced most small egg farms out of business. The solution was to make a 180-degree pivot from the industrial model and go free range and organic, eventually becoming the first Certified Humane egg farm in the country and later, the first farm business in the U.S. to be certified as a B Corp. Now the company partners with a network of 125 small family farmers to produce its eggs. Sustainable packaging was the next logical step.
“Our consumers expect Pete and Gerry’s to be on the leading edge of sustainability,” says Laflamme. “Like many other consumer packaged goods companies, we recognize that reuse is even better than recycling, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of this growing movement to help reduce the impact of packaging on the planet."
The cartons are currently being used in pilot programs at the Hanover Co-op Food Stores of New Hampshire and Vermont – and when I asked about any problems with breakage, Laflamme said it hasn't been an issue. And feedback from both retailers and consumers has been great.
“Initial retailer response to the program has been very strong and we are discussing an exclusive launch with a major US chain in early 2020," he adds.
Reusing an egg carton on its own is one thing a zero-waste advocate can do – but for now that is only going to work at the few places that offer loose eggs, like a farmers market or some co-ops. I know that many will argue that the best egg carton is no carton at all – as in, we shouldn't be eating animal products. But in the meantime, that the country's second largest egg company is going to formalize a program and get loose eggs into major chains is great, and a big step for getting those 8 billion annual egg cartons out of the waste stream.
For more, visit Pete and Gerry's.