For the longest time there was a lot of confusion as to whether pizza boxes could be recycled or not! Because so many pizzas are sold every year the want to be able to recycle pizza boxes is critical because the impact on our environment would be tremendous!
Can Pizza Boxes Be Recycled?
You would think it should be an easy YES or NO answer – but it isn’t and we will explain why.
Update: August 2020 – so an interesting study was done by WestRock that took a look at the history of saying pizza boxes were not all able to be recycled. Because of the concerns about the cheese and grease affecting the recycling process – they put it to the test!
In summary the test showed that concentrations of grease under 10% can in fact be recycled and that most average pizza boxes that are found in the recycling stream have 1% to 2% which is well within the range to be recycled!
Pizza boxes are typically made of corrugated cardboard – which of course we are recommended to recycle, but when you place the pizza in the box then the cardboard is typically left with some grease or cheese leftovers that then make the box not able to be recycled.
Pizza boxes cannot be recycled if they are damaged from grease and cheese. (which as shown above may no longer be true!)
Because the grease will prevent the paper fibers from being separate during the pulping processes is the key reason you cannot recycle a dirty pizza box.
But what about pizza boxes that somehow stayed clean?
For example, we have one local pizza place that actually tapes a piece of parchment or wax paper to the bottom of their boxes – so when we are done with our pizza we can remove the paper and we have a pretty clean box with no grease or cheese markings.
This is a pizza box we would be able to recycle!
What Can You Do With Your Pizza Boxes?
Below are a few ideas of what you can do with your pizza boxes if they are not able to be recycled due to contamination.
1 | Compost It
Not a lot of people are aware that a pizza box can actually be placed with your compost! If you are truly a zero waste home, then composting the pizza boxes that are filled with grease and cheese is your best environmentally friendly option.
Remember though that the pizza box has to be made from corrugated cardboard to be able to be added to compost and not have a waxy coating which some pizzerias do use.
To compost your pizza box be sure to break it into smaller pieces with the greasiest parts being broken up the most.
You can also check with your local cities compost program – if they have one – and see if you can bring your boxes there if you do not do composting.
2 | Recycle It
Like we discussed above – recycling your pizza box is an option only if the contamination on the box from the pizza is low or minimal. Be sure if you can recycle it you do remove all remnants of any pizza.
3 | Throw It In The Garbage
While not an EnviroMom’s favorite option, if you are not into composting and the box is just not able to be truly recycled, then throwing it in the garbage is the only other option.
4 | Recycle It & Garbage It
Huh? Yes – this is a thing and we actually learned about from the Science Center! They recommend that if only a small part of your box is greasy – then rip that piece off the box and you can then throw just that piece away while the rest of the box can then be recycled.
Why Not Set Up A Pizza Box Recycling Program?
We love pizza. There are an estimated 3 billion pizzas sold in the US every single year! From traditional households to college campuses there is definitely no shortage of pizza boxes hanging around.
If you are a really motivated and want to make a difference in your community – setting up a program to help community members have a place to bring their pizza boxes.
North Carolina State University as an example created a pizza box composting program where specific dumpsters are setup around campus to allow students to discard pizza boxes, pizza slices and crusts, paper plates and napkins.
Think about how you can do something similar in your neighborhood! Work with your local pizza places and see how they can help get involved to do something great for our world!