5 Ways to Use Egg Cartons

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

One of the most popular food items in a typical household are eggs. Whether these are regular chicken eggs or organic ones, almost everyone purchases a carton or two when they go to the grocery. In fact, in the US alone, over an estimated 214,000 eggs are consumed each day. Now, what happens to all those egg trays or cartons they come in?

Egg cartons, or trays as others may call them, are typically made out of recycled paper pulp that is designed to cushion eggs during transport and storage, although some are also made out of plastic or Styrofoam. The most common size would be the one that houses a dozen eggs, but there are other sizes available. Trays usually accommodate 20 to 30 eggs.

For the most part, I put these with my recyclables but I have seen quite a few people simply toss this out to the garbage. Given our concerns with global warming and proper waste management, I got to thinking about what else can be done with these cartons besides sending them to a recycling center to be reincarnated into another egg carton later on. Here are some ideas that came to mind or were inspired by things I came across while thinking about clever uses for egg cartons:

1. Space saving storage. Egg trays make great storage containers especially since it has those individualized compartments that can separate little knickknacks and items. For example, this could be a good place to store paper clips, staple wires and tacks without getting them all mixed up. It could also be used for different nails, screws, bolts and the like to keep your tool shed clean and neat. It is also an excellent container for fragile ornaments and small figurines. An added bonus to using egg trays compared to jars or containers: they’re stackable!

2. Bead sorter. I have seen some crafty moms and hobbyists make use of little plastic containers to segregate their beads. However, when working on a particular project, these individual containers can take up a lot of space on your workstation. Placing a handful of beads in each egg carton cup can be a good way to make your beading work more convenient and handy.

3. Learning Materials : Egg cartons make great teaching aids, whether it be for a toddler or for older preschoolers. These can help build academic competencies such as color mastery, number skills and even logic reasoning abilities. Be reminded, however, about cleaning these cartons very well before using these for kids. Also, if ever an egg inadvertently cracked while in there and dripped into the crevices of the carton, it would be better to just recycle these since raw eggs can be hosts of various bacteria and illnesses such as salmonella.

Paint each cup of the egg carton with different colors of tempera paint and use this to teach your child how to classify objects such as plastic eggs by matching the colored egg to it’s matching cup.

Label each cup with numbers and have your child place the right number of barrel beads, pebbles or other small toy counter in the cup.

Use the egg tray as a 3D tic-tac-toe frame. Cut out 9 cups from a large egg tray to form a square frame. Use blue and red balls instead of the typical x’s and o’s. As always, first to make three in a row wins!

4. Seedling cups. Cut out each individual cup (or use it whole if you’d prefer) and fill it up with soil. Drop in a few seeds and wait for it to sprout. When the seedlings start to grow, transfer them to a larger plot of soil. Since most egg cartons are made of recycled paper pulp, you can even include these when you replant the seedlings.

5. Packing and shipping. Egg cartons can be good alternatives for bubble wrap or other packing materials such as Styrofoam fillers or balls. It can also hold fragile items in place while shipping, although may not necessarily guarantee 100% safety if the shipped item is not handled properly.

Can you think of any other clever uses?

Marina Chernyak is the co-owner of 1001Shops LLC, an online store of fine imported products like Music Boxes, Venetian Mirrors and Venetian Masks.

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