Are Pizza Boxes Recyclable?

As landfills across the world continue to fill up, creating artificial islands and mountains that clog up, contaminate, and otherwise pollute the environment, we need to be conscious of what waste we are throwing out, and how we can dispose of it without doing any more damage to the natural world.

One of the most popular methods of alternative waste disposal that has become widespread in the last several decades is recycling.

Are Pizza Boxes Recyclable?

The idea behind this concept is simple: rather than create a landfill, tear down an old building, or dig up yards and gardens, simply reuse the materials for another purpose.

In most cases, this refers to waste or trash that is made of materials that can be reused in the manufacturing process, to make a new item.

This is great for many materials. It keeps items out of landfills, and can even make new items and products with less energy used to make them from raw materials.

And this is the case for many different items.

Paper, aluminum cans, cardboard, many kinds of plastic and glass bottles, and even tin cans can be recycled, helping to cut down on waste on our planet.

But sometimes, the line between recyclable material and dump-worthy trash gets a little blurred.

After all, we know that certain chemicals and materials can contaminate others, making items that are normally safe to throw in the recycling bin a waste, ironically.

Things like cleaning products fall into this category, but the food is probably the thing that most people are familiar with that can’t be recycled.

Which makes people wonder what food storage containers aren’t ruined for recycling by food.

Probably the most notorious example of this is pizza boxes.

The debate on whether or not pizza boxes are appropriate material to put in your recycling bin has been raging on for years at this point.

Endless discussion on how appropriate they are has filled the airwaves and online debates for decades.

Well, with a little research and luck, this is a question that we will hopefully answer by the end of this article.

We’re going to discuss why some people believe that you can’t recycle pizza boxes, what the reality of the situation is, as well as whether or not there are alternatives if you are still unsure.

Can I Recycle My Pizza Box?

So, let’s get the main question out of the way right now. Can you recycle used pizza boxes if they have leftover grease or food on them?

Well, the answer is a resounding: Yes… probably. With some preparation.

That sounds like a cop-out, but there is a good reason for this somewhat vague answer to what should otherwise be a simple question.

Why Some People Believe That Pizza Boxes Can’t Be Recycled

Why Some People Believe That Pizza Boxes Can't Be Recycled

There are valid reasons as to why, for the longest time, people believed that recycling pizza boxes was off the table (and with the regular garbage).

See, recycling isn’t a perfect process.

The quality of a recycled item may vary depending on its condition, and will almost always lose some of its integrity and overall quality.

Products that are made with recycled materials usually have to meet some kind of standard, for them to be considered fit to use for industrial or commercial purposes.

The general line of thinking for the longest time has been that, because of the food waste and grease that seeps into a pizza box base, their otherwise decent-quality cardboard becomes spoiled and deteriorates, meaning that it can’t be used again in the manufacturing process.

This means that items that are not properly prepared for recycling might contaminate other items, even ones that are already in proper shape.

And unfortunately, for many years at this point, pizza boxes have fitted in this category. Food left in pizza boxes creates issues when it comes to recycling.

When those pizza boxes go through the sorting system, along with paper, metal, plastic, etc., the residue also goes through the machine, slowing down the process of recycling.

The Truth On Whether Pizza Boxes Can Be Recycled Or Not

This has been the accepted line of thinking for pizza boxes for years now, but does this still hold up today?

Well, the current line of thinking seems to suggest otherwise. A study by Westrock, the primary provider of cardboard boxes for domino’s pizza, has suggested that the amount of grease that is absorbed into a cardboard box is negligible, only amounting to less than 2%, which is considered the amount of grease that would make an item of food inappropriate to be used in the recycling process.

So long as you clear any food that has stuck to the box out of it, as well as much of the grease as you can, your pizza box should be perfectly fine to recycle.

Even if it was the case that grease does affect the base of a pizza box too much to be recycled, the same does not apply to the cover, which is unlikely to receive even a fraction of the grease that the bottom will.

If you are concerned about the amount of grease in your box, the top can still be torn off and recycled.

Composting Your Pizza Box

If you are still concerned about the amount of grease in your pizza box, but you don’t want to throw it in a landfill, you may want to consider composting your box instead.

Grease and food material aren’t ingredients that can’t be digested by the bacteria in your own miniature little recycling plant, so it may seem like a tempting option to just toss your box into the bin and let nature take its course.

However, several things need to be taken into consideration before you decide to do this.

The size of your bin needs to be large enough to accommodate the full length of the pizza box, including the bottom.

This is a simple issue to fix, however, as tearing up your box is always an option.

It is also important to note that while your bin will provide some moisture during the composting process, you should avoid letting rain get inside your bin.

What’s more, when you put pizza boxes directly into your compost bin, they can become compacted and clog up the airflow, making it difficult for the composting bacteria to break down the materials efficiently.


So, there you have it! It turns out that, for the most part at least, pizza boxes are totally fine to be recycled.

You can tear them up or cut them open, depending on how messy you think they are.

Even if you do find yourself struggling with how best to dispose of your pizza box, fear not, because you can always compost it instead!

Jenna Bates
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