In the last few years, our society has realized that we need to be better to our planet and that does not just mean eating a less planetarily destructive diet, but also that we need to look into how we recycle things. Most of us have now moved past the point of throwing everything in the same bin and hoping that mother nature can just take one more for the team, realizing that she has already taken as much for the team that is physically possible to do without exploding into literally a sea of garbage.
Nowadays, we put in the effort to make sure the majority of our trash is at least being sorted correctly, however some of it is still as confusing as when we were first learning. One of the big contenders for ‘most confusing trash to sort’ are pizza boxes, and they have won that award almost every year since recycling began.
Now, with your hand hovering over the bins in front of you, empty pizza box in hand, and forehead sweating, I wouldn’t blame you for crying out to some unknown power for some help. Well, worry not, my friend, because I have come down from the internet heavens to answer your prayers and tell you whether or not you can recycle pizza boxes.
Can pizza boxes be recycled?
Unfortunately, unlike most cardboard boxes, recycling a pizza box is heavily dependent on the condition and circumstances that you get the box in. Should you get a pizza box that has had nothing inside it, has not been used, and has no sticky substance on it, then that pizza box is recyclable in any way
The way pizza boxes are designed in corrugated and ribbed shapes is done so to keep the pizzas warm on delivery and adds layers to the box itself. This design also allows pizza boxes to be folded and – most importantly – retain their shape, which means that you do not have to use a kind of sticky adhesive to keep the boxes together. Adhesives, such as glue or sticky tape, are not recyclable and therefore if your pizza box has these then neither is it.
So, without adhesives, pizza boxes are recyclable? If it doesn’t have a pizza in it, then sure, absolutely. If it has a pizza in it, then no, not at all. You see, the problem with pizzas is the ingredients in them, cheese being the worst one. A lot of the ingredients in pizzas have some form of oil or grease in them or oozing out of them onto the cardboard box.
Once these substances have soaked into the box, then it is no longer recyclable. The reason for this is that paper recycling is done by separating the individual paper fibers from each other and repurposing them with other fibers, creating new, recycled paper.
However, this is a very delicate process and can only be done about 4 or 5 times before the fibers are unusable for further recycling. When a food substance soils paper or cardboard, it makes it impossible to separate that oil from the paper fibers and since the paper fibers can no longer be separated, they can not be repurposed. As such, any grease, oil, or even a lot of crumbs on a pizza box, and you may be unable to recycle it.
Nonetheless, there are recycling centers that will take used pizza boxes, but they must meet certain requirements, specifically no oil or grease stains. How do you stop a pizza getting a box greasy, you may ask?
It depends on the way it is boxed, for you see some pizza boxes have a separate paper lining on the inside of the box under the pizza. If your pizza never actually touched the box and instead sat only on this paper lining, then it is good to be recycled, as long as no grease has soaked through the paper of course.
How can I dispose of pizza boxes without them going to a landfill?
Unfortunately, there are not many places where you can send a pizza box without it just ending up as garbage being picked apart by seagulls, simply because of the way that they are packaged. Nevertheless, there are a few methods you can try to make sure that you are not contributing to trash piles where there should be forests, and some of them are very easy.
- Check with your recycling facility or the local governmental codes – Knowing these will help you know what things you can and can’t place in your recycling pile. Not only that, but you can also see what other things can be recycled that you may not have been before.
- Recycle as much of the material as you can – Look at your pizza box and cut up as much of it as possible while avoiding all the grease. It may be annoying and time-consuming, but shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes, and you will feel all the better for it.
- Put your pizza box in the compost – Pizza boxes are made from cardboard and, as such, are made from plant fibers which can be easily broken down. By putting your pizza box in the compost bin, you are allowing the small bugs and beasties to break apart this box and turn it into compost, which is great for the garden.
- Turn it into shredded mulch – Shredding the box and sprinkling it around your plants will help your garden immensely. It will protect the topsoil around the plants and help keep moisture inside the soil rather than evaporating. This is especially good during long hot summers with little rain.
At points, recycling can seem hard and difficult, especially for things like pizza boxes, which we all feel should be easily recycled. However, with time these difficulties are easily overcome, and you start to gain good habits that you don’t even notice you’re doing half the time. With pizza boxes, it’s just a case of checking for grease, if there’s some on the box it can’t be recycled, but if there isn’t you are good to recycle.