Are Pizza Boxes Recyclable?

baked box cheese close up
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Have you ever wondered how to dispose of your pizza boxes properly?  Perhaps you’ve ordered hundreds of pizzas with no definite answer as to what to do with that cardboard box. Cardboard is recyclable, right?

Are pizza boxes recyclable? Cardboard, pizza boxes are recyclable as long as they are free from food contaminates. If the cardboard has been soiled with grease and/or other food particles, it is no longer recyclable.

This is not an easy “yes or no” question. Let’s dive deeper into the recyclability of pizza boxes, so you’re ready for that next delivery, shall we?

Can You Still Recycle a Soiled Pizza Box?

When a delicious pizza is made, it usually goes into the box straight from the oven. All of the greasy cheese easily slides directly onto the box, tainting it….forever (quite literally). Pizza boxes are generally made from corrugated cardboard. When it is soiled with grease, this is problematic within the recycle center.

Grease causes far more damage on cardboard than it does on glass or plastic. Food residue, in general, is a major source of impurity when it comes to paper material. It prevents paper fibers from binding properly, ruining the entire recyclable batch.

So how can you save a pizza box from the landfill?

Tear off the soiled areas of the pizza box and throw them in the trash (or compost, well discuss that next); you can then safely recycle the remainder of the box.

Is There an Alternative To Recycling or Throwing a Pizza Box Away?

Surely you are familiar with the bin that’s parked right next to the recycle bin; it’s usually green or brown. This is the bin that’s used for composting. Composting is free and environmentally friendly.

Compost is organic matter that has been decomposed in a process called composting. This process recycles various organic materials otherwise regarded as waste products and produces a soil conditioner; it is rich in nutrients. (Source: Texas A&M AgriLife Extension )

Composting might not be appealing to some people because it can cause an odor that attracts pests such as insects and rodents.  However, composting is beneficial for our planet. It acts as a natural soil that nourishes our land in regard to agriculture, landscaping, and farming. It also keeps our air & water free from pollution.

No harsh chemicals are used to dispose of these materials. In fact, only four components are needed for this lovely organic process:

  • Organic matter (usually plant material)
  • Moisture
  • Oxygen
  • Bacteria

Yup, our infectious little friends actually help us to salvage and reprocess products, otherwise known as waste. Bacteria breaks down our waste when mixed with these other elements through an aerobic process and allows for us to fertilize and condition our land.

And, yes, you CAN compost that pizza box in most areas. Check out this advice from a California recycling website.

What Other Items Are NOT Acceptable In Curbside Recycle Bins?

All paper products must be clean in order to be recycled. As stated above, paper products that are soiled prevent paper fibers from binding during the recycling process.  Here are some other products that should not be placed in a recycle bin:

  • Styrofoam– It’s best to try and refrain from Styrofoam altogether in order to facilitate a more eco-friendly environment.
  • Grocery bags– The number one source of debris in our oceans and other large bodies of water. Let’s avoid these troublesome bags as much as possible & steer towards saving our precious marine animals! And even though they are not good for your bin, several grocery store chains have drop off bins located near their doors.
  • Mirrors– The coating used on the glass to generate a reflective make it nearly impossible to recycle mirrors. If you have broken pieces, maybe try to challenge your crafty skills.
  • Clothes hangers– Not acceptable as recycling, in order to avoid injury to handlers during sorting. Try donating at your local shelter or resale shop.
  • Clothing– Most recycling facilities do not accept clothing because it can clog machinery. These can also be donated or even resold!
  • Toys– Most toys have been created from recycled plastic and several other materials, warding them unrecyclable. Garage sales, donating, and hand-me-downs are the best solutions for used toys.
  • Scrap wood– Although untreated wood may be recyclable, the chemicals in treated wood may be harmful in the recycling process.

Recycling Guidelines

Each city has varying guidelines when it comes to recycling. Pizza boxes may be downright banned from recycling altogether in some areas.

Other locations may accept pizza boxes with very little restriction. Although most areas find composting pizza boxes more appropriate, it is best to check with your local municipality for proper disposal.

This is also true for any product you may question as being recyclable. For instance, recycling infrastructure across the country is highly unequal. According to a Pew Research Center survey, just four-in-ten rural residents have access to curbside recycling. (Source: American Communities Project)

This makes it extremely difficult to recycle at all. America’s recycling infrastructure, as a whole, has simply not kept up with the staggering rate of production of new materials.

What Happens to Items That Are Rejected From the Recycling Process?

A landfill is a location where materials that cannot be recycled are disposed of. Waste is strategically buried and covered in order to avoid groundwater and air. The purpose of these conditions is to prevent as much decomposition as possible, which can lead to pollution, causing a multitude of health conditions.

These disposal areas must comply with city, state, and federal regulations in order to provide a healthy atmosphere for us all. However, several of these areas have also been known to overfill.

In fact, the plastic pandemic is so severe that materials known to be recyclable are actually going into the landfill! A betrayal of what we aspire to do to save our planet. But that’s another story; you can get more information on that here: 60 Minutes Australia.

So, What Can We Do?

Your pizza box isn’t the real culprit here. To make a difference, refrain from plastic altogether. Our planet is drowning in plastic. Our forests, oceans, and animals are suffering. We are suffering detrimental health issues caused by air and water pollution due to disposal materials.

If you make it a habit, it’s not hard to rid as much plastic from your home as possible:

  • Use glass jars in the pantry
  • Use aluminum, reusable bottles for water and such
  • Don’t buy plastic wrap or zip-lock bags
  • Take reusable grocery bags to the store.

As a country, many concerned citizens are fighting for laws and regulations against the use of plastic. Laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, food packaging, and product packaging should all be recyclable material. Stainless steel, aluminum, wood, bamboo, beeswax-coating cloth, and cardboard are all healthy alternatives.

Also, composting as much as possible is a good way to not only save but nourish our planet. As stated above, in most areas, your pizza boxes are safe for composting — cheese stains and all.

Yes, You Can Recycle – and Compost – That Pizza Box!

Overall, recycling is necessary for the well-being of our fellow human beings, our beloved animals, our water, air, and our land. We can still enjoy the things we love most but with a better understanding of how to dispose of them properly. The next time you order a pizza, you will have the information you need to dispose of that box the right way. You can have your pizza and do a favor for the planet, too.

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