We go through a LOT of eggs – leading to a ton of egg-related waste in landfill! Food waste can be diverted from landfill by composting but, unfortunately, not all food waste is suitable for the home compost pile. Whole eggs (even rotten ones) are compostable, but the EPA advise against it since their smell can make them a target for pests. However, experienced composters often add them to their composting pile – ensuring they are buried deep and covered well. Here we will take a closer look and offer an alternative to dispose of your food scraps easily – including whole eggs.
Firstly, are eggs biodegradable?
Knowing if an item is biodegradable gives us a big clue as to whether it can be added to the home compost pile. In short, anything that can be broken down naturally by microbes, such as bacteria, is termed ‘biodegradable’. Generally, any item that has come from nature is biodegradable – essentially, the component parts return to nature. All parts of an egg will biodegrade in suitable conditions, including the shell. However, different parts will biodegrade at different rates.
Egg cartons made from the pressed cardboard material are also biodegradable. This started off life as a tree, so it is regarded as natural. The plastic and foam cartons, on the other hand, were created by humans. Sure, these will break down over time into smaller and smaller pieces – but this is not the same process as biodegradation.
So, can you compost whole eggs?
Composting your household food scraps reduces how much waste we send to landfill – with the by-product being a homemade (free!), nutrient-rich fertilizer for your garden. As households are increasingly looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint, it is becoming more and more popular. And it is easy to understand why – it will save you money and it is good for the planet! What’s not to like?
We have seen that eggs are biodegradable, so you might think it automatically qualifies for the home compost bin. Unfortunately, some items throw up some curveballs when it comes to composting. Despite what a lot of people think, the terms ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ are not interchangeable. They do not mean the same thing – there are subtle differences between their meanings. To be compostable an item needs to be biodegradable but not all biodegradable items are compostable! There can be several reasons a biodegradable item can’t be composted at home – from containing dangerous pathogens to simply being too smelly and attracting unwanted local wildlife.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advise against composting whole eggs (although, they deem eggshells to be suitable). The EPA argue that the odor is likely to attract pests. And it is difficult to argue with their reasoning – who really wants a smelly, pest-attracting pile in their backyard?
Some considerations if you decide to compost eggs…
Even though it is advised against by the EPA, experienced composters still compost whole eggs. It is, ultimately, the choice of individuals what they add to their home compost pile. However, composting isn’t as straightforward as many think – it is not as easy as just throwing some food scraps in there and waiting for a while! We recommend if you are new to home composting to give composting whole eggs a miss, for now. Stick to more straightforward items such as eggshells and the pressed cardboard egg cartons.
If you do add whole eggs, make sure that they are deep within the pile – pests won’t be able to sniff it out quite as easily. Cover it with a few layers and you should be good to go. Another popular suggestion is to not add the egg whole; burst it first. This will prevent a gas build up and potential smelly egg explosion!
If you want to avoid these issues, compost eggs Bokashi style!
If you don’t want the problems associated with composting eggs at home, there are food waste collections in some areas. Cooked or uncooked foods can, generally, be collected – this is a great option for foods that are a bit more awkward to compost at home, like eggs. Have a look in your local area to see if this is an option for you.
If this is not available or you want to do-it-yourself at home (and get some fertilizer for the garden in the process) there is another alternative to standard home composting. Bokashi composting, in its simplest terms, involves the fermentation of leftover food scraps. The process takes place in an anaerobic sealed container. This is ideal for disposing of eggs as pests can’t get to it! It is quite quick too – food scraps, generally, only take between 4-6 weeks to ferment. The final product can then be added to the standard composting bin or buried in the garden.
The bottom line
Home composting of whole eggs is not recommended by the EPA. The shell part is fine – but the insides can cause havoc. The foul odor is likely to attract wildlife. For many, it is simply not worth the potential trouble. If you don’t have a local food waste collection who compost food on a huge scale, don’t worry! Even better you can try Bokashi composting – a quick and easy alternative. It will provide you with a nutrient rich compost in a matter of weeks. The set-up is a bit more expensive than typical home composting, but a Bokashi composter is a great addition to any household – especially when you have eggs to dispose of, and other controversial home composting items like meat, left over.