Pizza boxes can in some cases be recycled but it’s not always clear from the print on the box itself.
In this article, we look at exactly when a pizza box can actually be recycled, and when it cannot. We also look at how you dispose of them correctly when they cannot be recycled. There are several things to consider here.
Here’s the short answer to whether pizza boxes can be recycled:
While most pizza boxes are made of recyclable cardboard, pizza boxes themselves are often ineligible for recycling. This is due to the grease and oil that stain many pizza boxes from popular chain restaurants. That being said, frozen pizza boxes may be recyclable.
1. Here’s Why You Can’t Recycle Pizza Boxes
The truth is that pizza boxes are technically recyclable. Most of the pizza boxes from popular chain restaurants like Domino’s or Papa John’s are made from corrugated cardboard.
When it is clean and in pristine condition, this type of cardboard can be tossed in your blue recycling bin and handled by your local facility. The catch is that most pizza boxes are too dirty to actually be recycled.
Most pizza boxes come with food debris attached to them, mostly in the form of excess grease. This food debris and grease can have disastrous consequences during the recycling process.
It keeps the paper fibers from binding to create new products and results in poor-quality.
How Does it All Work?
When paper products are recycled, they are mixed with water to form a slurry.
Oil and water do not mix, so the grease from the pizza boxes causes oil to form at the top of the slurry mixture. If there is too much oil for a particular batch of recycling, the entire slurry has to be scrapped, and the process must begin again with more paper fibers.
In other words, you may be doing more harm than good by recycling your pizza boxes.
2. How Do You Dispose of Pizza Boxes Properly?
Sending a greasy pizza box to your local recycling facility is an irresponsible way to get rid of your cardboard.
It can ruin a batch of perfectly good paper products. Instead, you may have to get a little more creative with your pizza boxes. It requires a little more work on your part, but you can still help the environment with your effort.
First, grab a pair of heavy-duty kitchen scissors. Trim away the parts of the cardboard box that are clean and separate them from the greasy sections. This allows you to recycle the clean cardboard and dispose of the contaminated sections appropriately.
Cardboard that is covered in food debris and grease can be placed in with your regular trash. It will eventually biodegrade, even in a landfill. However, many people prefer to compost it.
While some argue that greasy cardboard in their composting bin invites critters and causes a certain smell, most people are happy to include pizza boxes in this more natural way of handling trash. You can minimize this potential problem by burying it a little deeper in your compost pile and tearing it up into small pieces.
3. Are Pizza Boxes Compostable?
The good news is that even though pizza boxes are not always recyclable, they can still be good for the environment.
For those who are interested, theses boxes can indeed be compostable even when covered with grease and food debris. Once you remove the clean, recyclable portions, all you have to do is toss the remainder into the compost pile.
If you are worried about the potential smell or insects that could come from composting your greasy cardboard, there is a solution. Grab a small shovel and bury your cardboard approximately one foot down into the pile.
As a reminder, you should tear up the cardboard into smaller pieces first. This allows it to break down faster. The average pizza box should take about ninety days to decompose when you follow this type of procedure.
4. How Long Do Pizza Boxes Take to Decompose?
If you are careful to tear up your cardboard into small pieces and place it in a flourishing compost pile, it does not take long at all to decompose.
Under ideal conditions, the entire decomposition process can take place in roughly ninety days.
5. What About Pizza Boxes from Domino’s Pizza?
Yes, pizza boxes from Domino’s Pizza can be both recycled and composted.
They can only be recycled if the cardboard is clean and free of grease or food debris. If they are not free from grease, then you will want to consider composting them if this option is available to you.
If some parts are salvageable, such as the top half of the box, consider separating them and recycling the clean portions of the cardboard.
6. Are Frozen Pizza Boxes Disposable?
There is good news for those individuals who prefer frozen pizza to the takeout variety.
Because the pizza is not cooked when it is packaged, there is less chance that your cardboard pizza box is going to be covered with oil and grease. In fact, most frozen pizzas are shrink wrapped before they are placed in the box, ensuring that your food never comes into contact with the cardboard.
The best way to make sure that you can recycle your cardboard frozen pizza box is to place the finished product on a metal cookie sheet instead of back on the cardboard box. As long as the cardboard never comes into contact with the food, you should be perfectly fine to recycle it along with your other paper products.
However, you can still compost your frozen pizza boxes if you are concerned with the idea of recycling your corrugated cardboard. Simply rip it up into small pieces and bury them inside of your compost bin. They should biodegrade back into the earth in approximately ninety days.
Maria is the founder of GoDownsize. While studying architecture in Denmark she became fascinated with designing living spaces for boats, tiny houses, RVs, and other small spaces.
She mainly writes about space optimization, interior design, and downsizing. She’s also in charge of our YouTube channel. Read more about Maria here.