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Are pizza boxes filling up your trash?

Pizza Box Recycling

Pizza is delicious and convenient so it’s no wonder that over 3 billion pizzas are sold in the U.S. every year. Which means we’re throwing out a lot of pizza boxes!

According to the USDA more than 1 in 4 males, ages 6-19 years, consume pizza on any given day. And in places where there’s a high percentage of young people like University campuses, pizza boxes can be a large contributor to waste.

Can you recycle pizza boxes?

Yes if they are clean. Pizza boxes are normally made from corrugated cardboard which is recyclable. However most pizza boxes have food debris attached to them and a lot of grease. The grease prevents the paper fibers from binding during the recycling process and this results in a poor quality paper product. This also happens when paper plates and used paper napkins are recycled.

If the recyclable load becomes contaminated with the grease from pizza boxes then the whole load will be sent to landfill, which is a dire consequence for your sustainability goals.

The best way to recycle pizza boxes is to discard any leftover food in your organics collection bin before putting the box in the recycling. Any heavily greased cardboard can be torn off and put in the trash before putting the clean cardboard in the recycling stream.

What about composting?

Composting is a great alternative to pizza box recycling. The box along with paper napkins and food scraps can be tossed directly into your organics collection.

Some people warn that the grease can be detrimental to the composting process as they feel it attracts bugs and causes a smell, however many municipalities are now welcoming pizza boxes in their organics collection programs including City of Toronto, City of Vancouver and San Francisco to name a few.

North Carolina State University set up a composting program for their used pizza boxes and reported they composted 8,700 pizza boxes from March 2014 – March 2015.

NCSU Pizza Box collection

NCSU has 6 dumpsters around campus to collect pizza boxes for composting.

Top tips for setting up your pizza box recycling or composting program:

Pizza Box Bin

  • Ideal locations include anywhere pizza gets regularly consumed including cafeterias, common areas, meeting rooms and dorm room buildings for students.
  • Select the right size container for the amount of pizza boxes being generated in your facility.
  • Launch the program to your employees, customers or students so they are aware that they can now toss pizza bins into the organics stream or in the recycling.
  • Customize the container to suit the bulky nature of pizza boxes. If possible the best solution is one that encourages stacking of the boxes to prevent bottle necks.
  • Continue to communicate the program after launch, and report on the progress so everyone can see how much waste is being diverted from landfill.

If you’d like to learn more about pizza box recycling we’d love to connect. Call us at 1-888-646-4246 or email solutions@cleanriver.com