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Hot Debate – To recycle, or not to recycle the humble pizza box?

Waste Disposal Services Australia
Published: April 5, 2022
pizza box disposal

Although pizza boxes are recyclable, they can also be a cardboard recyclers worst nightmare.

Why, you might ask?

If you were to examine a brand new pizza box, you would notice the familiar recycling logos on the side of the cardboard box. No problem there, right? Here’s the ‘catch’. Those logos were printed whilst the box was clean and pristine. Once it’s been used (for that double-cheese, extra pepperoni pizza you’re about to chew into for example), the bottom inside of the box is usually covered in grease.

And this leads to a problem referred to in the waste Industry as “Waste Contamination.”

Did you know the grease stains from a few pizza boxes can ruin an entire batch of cardboard recycling? Many councils are asking for the greasy base of a cardboard pizza box be discarded in the general waste bin. This is because the contaminates mixed into the cardboard degrade the quality of the final product (recycled cardboard). The lid is normally clean, so tearing the lid from the base of a pizza box provides a way of recycling half of the box.

Disagreements about recycling emerge in varied degrees of urgency and scale – even the humble pizza box is scrutinised. Some pizza stores are starting to take this into consideration and will include a thin cardboard insert under the pizza to help preserve the entire box for recycling. As a general rule, any recyclable materials need to be clean including plastic food containers. A quick rinse of all recyclable plastic food containers is all that’s needed, before placing them in the recycling bin. If in doubt, err on the side of caution and check with your local council.

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