Breaking News ~ Greasy Pizza Boxes May be Recycled!

If you’re like most people, you spend a lot of time worrying about whether your greasy pizza box has too much grease to be recycled.  Well, maybe not most people, but there are people who are concerned about such things. 

Here’s an excerpt from RecycleSmart Web site:

…The U.S. box manufacturing industry wants Americans to know that their pizza boxes, including the grease and stuck-on cheese, are a valuable feedstock for their factories. According to the Fibre Box Association there are approximately 3 billion pizza boxes used in the U.S. each year, which represents about 600,000 tons of highly desired material that should be recycled, not wasted.

If you’re thinking, “wait, I thought greasy pizza boxes were a problem in the recycling bin, you’re not alone.  The Recycling Partnership reports that about 73% of community recycling programs don’t have clear acceptance guidelines for pizza box recycling.  The American Forest and Paper Association and the Fibre Box Association want to clear up the confusion. 

A study completed by WestRock Industries, one of the world’s largest paper and packaging companies, found that grease and cheese in amounts typically found on pizza boxes do NOT impact manufacturing in a negative way.  AF&PA President and CEO Heidi Brock says, “corrugated (brown) pizza boxes are successfully recycled every day at paper mills throughout the country… so let’s be clear: consumers should not be concerned about grease or cheese – simply remove any leftover pizza and place the box in the recycle bin.”

Actually, the paper industry’s appeal for your old pizza boxes is part of a larger need for more recycled paper and cardboard to feed the nation’s paper and box making industry as a whole.  What’s causing this increased need?  COVID-19….

What you can recycle keeps changing

The pizza box conundrum is an illustration of the challenges of recycling.  We often learn something…. once, and it’s hard to adjust.  Pizza boxes were thought to be too greasy at one point.  We were told at various times, don’t recycle them, then recycle them if they’re not too greasy, then recycle the top half only.  It’s easy to get frustrated and confused about recycling in general. 

Frustration and confusion often lead to surrender on what to do.  Either you throw it in the trash or even worse than that, throw it in the bin and let someone else figure it out. (don’t do that..when in doubt – throw it out!)  It does not take much to contaminate a whole load of recycled material. 

The good news is there is a really good place to find out what the current thinking is.

  https://recyclesmartma.org/ will tell you what the latest thinking is.  They even have a specific feature called Recyclopedia: Can I recycle it? It gets down to the nitty gritty of what can and cannot go in your bin. 

We will continue to highlight some of the things we find to be interesting on that site and bring it to this column.

Keep recycling and do it smart.


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