Recycling Know-No’s Part 4: We Want Your Pizza Boxes but Not Your Pizza!

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By Gene Kalb

*** Editor’s Note – Fall Recycling Event at DPW –  This Saturday October 20, 9 a.m. to Noon @ DPW, 314 Great Road  Details **

Question #4 – Pizza Boxes – Everybody loves pizza! But what to do with the box when you’re done? At one point I heard that you shouldn’t recycle the box. But is that still true? What do I do with my used pizza box?

“We Want Your Pizza Boxes but Not Your Pizza!”

Ed McGrath says this is okay to recycle – Image (c) Gene Kalb, 2018 all rights reserved

The title of this installment is the message the operators of the material recovery facilities (MRFs) gave to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection last May and it’s the message the paper mills are giving to the MRFs.

Admittedly, there have been mixed messages about whether or not pizza boxes can go in the recycling bin. You know the questions. Can boxes with cheese and tomato sauce stuck to the box be recycled? How much oil or grease on the bottom of the box is too much?

To clarify and ease a source of frustration and confusion for Bedford residents, Ed McGrath, Bedford’s Recycling Coordinator came up with these guidelines:

“One of the main messages in recycling these days is to keep food waste out of the recycling stream,” McGrath said. “So make sure the pizza box is empty. If you think the bottom of the box is too soaked with oil or grease, throw it in the trash. That’s a better option than risking contamination of a load of otherwise good recyclable material.”

  • Remove all contents from the pizza box – waxed paper, uneaten pie crusts, etc.
  • Scrape off any food waste (cheese) from the box.• Make the call. If you think the bottom of the box is really, really greasy, throw it in the trash (after ripping the top off and putting that part in the recycling bin).
  • If the box is relatively clean, recycle it.

“One of the main messages in recycling these days is to keep food waste out of the recycling stream,” McGrath said. “So make sure the pizza box is empty. If you think the bottom of the box is too soaked with oil or grease, throw it in the trash. That’s a better option than risking contamination of a load of otherwise good recyclable material.”

About Recycling Know No’s:

Recycling is good.  It helps the environment, helps the town, and makes you feel you’re doing your part.  That being said, not all things are easy to recycle, no matter what you may think.  Putting your Styrofoam coffee cup in the bin might feel right, but is actually detrimental and costly to us in Bedford.  There are other things that fall into the category of “should” be recycled, but without understanding what happens “downstream,” your wishful thinking could end up causing more trouble.  You may not have been aware that all recycled material gets sorted, and one of the most cost-effective sorts happens at your bin. Understanding what happens after your recycling bucket has been collected can help make that downstream work easier.  Accordingly, we are embarking on a new series that hopefully will answer the “whys “ and “whats” of recycling here in Bedford.

The Bedford Citizen has teamed up with Ed McGrath from the Bedford Department of Public Works in a new segment called “Know-Nos of recycling” to explain what happens once you put something in the recycle bin. We’ll also explain why it’s so important to only put the correct stuff in your recycle bins.  If you have questions, please send them along.