Ask Eartha: Unwanted surprise nested in plastic Easter eggs
April 9, 2014
My kids love looking for eggs full of candy on Easter morning. I love it too, but I worry about those mysterious plastic eggs. Is there such a thing as an Eco-Easter?
— Michelle, Frisco
I understand your concern, especially with all the new information we are learning about the dangers of plastic. Those little plastic eggs are no different unfortunately, but Easter just wouldn't be the same without a good old egg hunt. The Steward kids get excited about it every year! Never fear, there are a lot of great ways to make that Easter Bunny be a little bit more earth friendly.
Most plastic Easter eggs are made in China and shipped to the U.S., creating a large carbon footprint for each little egg. They have also been shown to contain Bisphenol-A (BPA) and sometimes, according to USA Today, lead paint. These chemicals are harmful to the environment and our water sources. If you have already bought your eggs, or have some leftover from last year, make sure to reduce contamination by counting them ahead of time and make yourself a map to be sure that none are left to break down in your yard. Indoor egg hunts can also be a good choice to avoid accidental littering.
BPA and lead are also harmful to our health. BPA is an endocrine disruptor which can affect natural hormone development, especially in children. Lead, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, "is a developmental toxicant" and the "harmful effects of lead on children's development can occur without signs or symptoms." Loose jellybeans and other unwrapped candies are more likely to pick up these harmful chemicals while waiting to be found.
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I had some leftover plastic eggs from years ago and we decided to make decorations out of them, rather than put candy inside or throw them in the landfill. You can poke holes in them to make an Easter wreath for your front door or string them up around a window, out of reach of small children.
Easter eggs are not typically recyclable. Rarely have I ever seen an egg with a recycling number on the bottom. When I have, it is usually a #7. The drop sites in Summit County only accept #1 and #2 bottles. Please do not put plastic Easter eggs in the plastic recycling containers. Curbside recycling will accept plastic #1-#7. Only recycle plastics with a number on them in curbside recycling. Otherwise, broken Easter eggs have to go into the trash.
There are lots of green egg options for this year's Easter hunt. Start by looking for plastic eggs that say "BPA free" on the label. There are also Eco Eggs, which you can buy online. They are made in the U.S., certified non-toxic, and are made of an Ingeo, a plant-based plastic which is certified compostable at an industrial compost facility, like ours in Keystone.
You can also mix it up this year by making an Easter basket at the end of a treasure hunt. You can get great secondhand baskets from the thrift stores in the area, such as the FIRC in Breckenridge and Dillon. Fill the basket with fun activities, candy and presents to keep them entertained.
For those looking for a super Eco-Easter this year, break out the sewing kit. It is easy to make fabric, egg-shaped pockets that can hold candy and be used year after year. You can make them any size to hold small candy or larger surprises. This is a great use for fabric scraps that would be too small for other crafts. If they get dirty, just throw them in the wash.
Remember, as you are getting ready for this year's Easter hunt, keep the environment in mind. Use BPA-free plastic eggs, or another sustainable option. Make sure all the eggs are collected when you do outdoor egg hunts. If the kids can't find them all, get the adults involved. Happy Eco-Easter Summit County!
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at email@example.com.