Can You Recycle Pizza Boxes? Intelligent Myth Busting!

The delicious slices of pizza that so many people indulge in come packed away neatly in a corrugated cardboard box. A material which we all know is very recyclable!

So, can you recycle pizza boxes? Or is it causing more harm than anything else?

It’s not always that easy to find the answers you need. Which is why I want to share some solutions with you.

Can Pizza Boxes Be Recycled?

Unfortunately, it’s not a yes or no answer… Sorry!

Here’s the thing:

greasy pizza boxThe grease that comes from a pizza makes it very hard to recycle the cardboard boxes.

The problem occurs when your pizza boxes make it to the recycling center.

Paper fibers cannot be separated from the oils that get left behind.

Research shows that the biggest contaminator of paper is food.

When we send our old pizza box to the recycling plant, it gets shredded into tiny pieces and mixed with water, and other various chemicals, such as Sodium Silicate.

The pulp mixture then undergoes a separation process, which helps to remove any:

  • Ink
  • Metal
  • Sticky tape

If it can get rid of these contaminates, then surely it can get rid of grease, right?

pizza box disposalNo, grease is a lot harder to separate than any of the other contaminants. It can mix with the pulp far too easily, which lowers the quality of any paper that managed to be recovered.

For this reason, anything you send to recycling must be free of any grease or food waste. That means no burger boxes, or any other cardboard food containers.

So, that’s a few reasons where recycling pizza boxes become an issue. But when can you recycle pizza boxes?

If you’ve got your heart set on recycling your pizza box, then there are a few things you need to think about:

  • Remove any leftovers – You need to ensure any food scraps are removed from the packaging. That means no crusts, no cheese, and no napkins should be left behind.
  • Evaluate the damage – There comes a time where we have to cut our losses on the idea of recycling a soiled pizza box. Sometimes the box is soiled to the point it can not be salvaged. But, other times, this is not the case; some pizzas come with a sheet of waxed paper underneath. This soaks up any leftover grease and allows you to recycle the cardboard.
  • Recycle the lid – More often than not, the top is perfectly fine to be recycled, they don’t get covered in grease like the bottom of the box does.
  • Speak to your local recycling center – Sometimes recycling centers just won’t take your recyclables; from fear of contamination. Make sure you check your local recycling center if they accept an unsoiled box.

Are Pizza Boxes Compostable?

Sending your waste to landfills might not be an option. There is another option, and it’s a lot greener than recycling. But first you’ll need to know is cardboard biodegradable?

If you’ve read my post you’ll know it is, which means:

You could compost them!

By breaking down the solid waste into smaller pieces, more manageable pieces, you have the option to drop them off at a commercial composting center, or in your home compost if you have one.

Home composting bin

Over time the box will degrade into nothing but carbon and water, leaving behind nutrient-rich soil. This is then be used to bring new life into the environment.

Composting is by far the greenest and most beneficial way of disposing of any greasy cardboard containers.


Before you decide to recycle your next soiled food container, remember one greasy box will ruin the whole batch of recycling.

If it’s unsoiled, the recycled pizza boxes will be turned into various other materials.

But, if you’re looking for the most eco-friendly option is composting your waste. It uses less energy than recycling and gives nutrients back to the planet.

If you found this interesting, don’t forget to show some love and share us on Facebook/Twitter. The more people we reach, the more prominent the change we can make together. If you have questions, feel free to leave a comment below.

If you liked this article, why not find out if you can recycle Styrofoam; the answer might surprise you!

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