The grocery store I regularly shop at e-mails frequent surveys. A few months ago, there was a survey about eggs. As someone very concerned about the food in my market and the packaging that food comes in, I dutifully filled out at my survey and left my written comments at the end. My comments were about packaging.

All eggs should be in recyclable, compostable compost I commented. If that’s not possible, then they should be in recyclable plastic. There is no reason for eggs to ever be Styrofoam cartons. There doesn’t seem to be any change in the way the eggs are packaged at my grocery store, at least not yet. The organic eggs are still in plastic packaging.

Have you ever wondered about the plastic packaging that most grocery store organic eggs come in? When you open the lid there’s a second plastic flap that sits on top of the eggs. It’s annoying. It makes reaching in the fridge and grabbing an egg right from the carton impossible. You have to take the carton all the way out and open it fully to get an egg out.

Turns out, according the The Big Money, that all the plastic packaging and the extra plastic flap on organic and cage free eggs are unnecessary. It’s because consumers like it better, or at least marketers think consumers like it better.

When the USDA created an organic seal in 2002, organics became a luxury item and luxury items need to be convenient. It’s much more convenient to look through plastic to make sure your eggs are in good condition than to actually open a carton in the store.

A lot has changed since 2002, though. People are more aware of the impact that not only the products they buy have but also the packaging that the products come in has. That’s probably why Wegmans sent out that survey a few months ago about eggs and their packaging. A change is happening.

Having finally saturated demand in the food market, organics must compete not only with the growing number and variety of their peers but also with old-school chemical-loving brands. To top it off, there is a more general awareness regarding waste produced throughout the entire chain, from producing to unwrapping. Some cities have gone so far as to ban uses of polystyrene foam. Consumers inside and outside the food industry are paying more attention to waste. In 2008, Wal-Mart, the company that sets the standard for our consumer nation, introduced its "Packaging Scorecard." Suddenly every industry had to rethink its branding and packaging to meet Wal-Mart's demands.

To differentiate themselves, organic companies are searching for ways to meet the demand for food and packaging variety while incorporating further sustainability. Recent developments in the packaging industry have made this goal more achievable. Oil-based polymers can already be substituted with sugar cane, corn, soy, and potatoes to make bioplastics. The products range in their disposal capacity from traditional land-filling to recyclable, biodegradable, and even compost-ready material. With these materials, you still get the luxury, convenience, and luster of plastic, but you lessen the environmental drawbacks.

What can we do to help speed the changes along?
  • Speak up.
  • Answer surveys if your grocery store has them.
  • Take a minute to put a note in the suggestion box at the customer service counter of your store.
  • Send an e-mail to the powers that be at the store you shop in and to the manufacturer of the eggs you buy asking them to ditch the traditional plastic cartons and use more earth-friendly alternatives.
  • If you have a choice between an organic brand of eggs in the cardboard or organic eggs in plastic, choose the cardboard.
  • If you have the ability to, buy your eggs directly from a farm or farmers market. When you go back to buy more, take the carton with you. Many small farmers reuse egg cartons. There’s no reason not to.
Image: Lissalou66


Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Speak up about eggs
Organic eggs often come overpackaged in plastic containers. Ever wonder why?