How do I recycle?: Pizza Boxes
Pizza boxes are made from cardboard and therefore definitely recyclable.
Or so I thought until recently.
It's actually not as straightforward as it seems. And the answer will vary based on the type of pizza box: takeaway or store-bought.
Takeaway Pizza Boxes
Takeaway pizza boxes are made from cardboard which, on its own, is one of the easiest materials to recycle. The issue arises when food comes into contact with paper or cardboard.
But before we move on, I need to first explain how paper and cardboard recycling works.
When cardboard and paper waste is delivered to a recycling plant or materials recovery facility, they are separated by grade and type. The paper is then washed with detergent and bleaching agents to remove ink, glue, staples and tape. Once washed, the paper is then transferred to a large churner where it is mixed with water to create a pulp. The pulp is then processed into various materials like cardboard, paper or newsprints.
When greasy paper or cardboard enters the churner, the oil separates from the paper fibres and does not dissolve in water. Instead, it covers everything from the new paper strands to the machinery. As a result, the oil shortens the paper fibres and reduces their quality, so much so that the paper is practically useless. As for the machinery, if grease were allowed to enter the system unregulated, it would cause massive build ups and equipment breakdown.
So while it’s recommended to discard pizza boxes, you can recycle parts of it. If the box has little to no stains, you can definitely send it for recycling. But if your pizza was particularly greasy, you might have to separate the box in two: the lid, which is usually relatively clean, can be recycled and the bottom half should be discarded.
Store-bought Pizza Boxes
Supermarket pizza boxes are another story altogether.
Because the pizzas are stored, they are usually packaged in a thin plastic film. This prevents contact between the pizza and the cardboard. As a result, you can definitely recycle the box but keep in mind that you should first remove the plastic window if there is any.
Not to worry if your pizza isn’t covered in plastic. Because the pizza is prepared in advance and uncooked, the amount of grease transfer is minimal. You can still effectively recycle the box.
Wait! Before you head off to recycle all your pizza boxes, make sure to remove any leftover food (yes, even that tiny mozzarella strand) - those can go in the compost if you have one.