Issue at Hand: Over 1 billion pizzas are delivered every year, while over 11.5 million pizzas are sold every day in this country.
So Can We Recycle Pizza Boxes or Not?
The problem with recycling pizza boxes is the food, cheese and grease that both sticks to the insides of the cardboard box and the oils that permeate the fibers of the paper cardboard. In a nutshell, fiber in food is fine, but food on fiber that is due to be recycled is not! Paper fibers in the recycling bin are actually not recyclable if they have any food contamination on them.
Many recyclers will opt to take a pizza box that is still relatively clean, meaning very minimal or no grease stains at all. If cheese from the pizza has gotten stuck to the box lid, but the bottom of the box is still clean, then consider going the extra little bit of distance, removing the top half, and still recycling the bottom, clean half. Then, you can either discard the dirty box top in the trash, or consider composting it. For boxes with pizza crumbs and maybe a little bit of tomato sauce, consider wiping the insides clean and then recycling it.
What Are the Reasons Behind Not Recycling Pizza Boxes?
Remember, as long as pizza boxes are entirely clean and not soaked with cheese, grease or oils, they can be recycled along with other paper and cardboard. When the pizza boxes become overly saturated with oil and grease, the basic process of recycling fibrous materials is rendered useless, as the paper fibers themselves cannot be separated from the grease and oils.
What you may not know is that paper products are recycled in a process that employs water to do the dirty work. The oil and grease found in paper containers like pizza boxes or other food cartons gets into the water mixture during the recycling process and basically ruins the batch being worked on. As the oil separates and refuses to mix with the water, it gets in the way when in later stages, the mashed up mixture of paper and cardboard needs to be reformed to make recycled paper products.