Are Pizza Boxes Recyclable? 🍕: We all want to do the right thing when it comes to recycling. But unfortunately, some items aren’t as easy to recycle – pizza boxes are one of these.

You may be unaware that your favourite pizza and the box that it comes with are an unlikely pairing. Here’s why: pizza boxes, for the most part, are made of corrugated cardboard.

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And if you’re just dumping the entire empty box after enjoying a slice or two, perhaps? You may be doing more harm than good, without even realising it.

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In addition, it is a known fact that food waste is a major source of contaminants in paper recycling. More specifically, grease and oil are two of the worst culprits that can contaminate pizza boxes, which ultimately becomes a hindrance to the paper recycling process.

Contamination of just a single pizza box is tantamount to rendering an entire batch of paper recycling completely futile.

Short answer: you can recycle pizza boxes, provided that they are without oil and grease stains. If they have those, more often than not, you cannot recycle them.

– Mr Waster


Paper recycling process: and the consequence of contamination!

Let’s take a look at how paper and cardboard recycling works – and where recyclable pizza boxes enter the picture. Paper recycling is a whole different story because paper doesn’t get heated during its recycling process. Grease and oil, combined with the pulp, can ruin a batch of recyclables, thereby wasting recyclables and money.

Once your paper and cardboard are sorted into grades and types, they move on to the paper mill. They may spend weeks in storage, where food particles and grease can turn rancid and attract insects or animals.

By mixing in water, a semi-liquid mixture or “slurry” comes into fruition. That’s where your greasy pizza box comes into the picture!

If you’ve ever washed something full of grease or oil, you know that it’s quite painstaking to remove it completely. Once in the slurry, the remaining oil floats to the top. Unavoidably, it becomes impossible to separate the oil from the paper fibres at this point.

Depending on what type of paper product and how much contamination occurs, an entire batch may be ruined.


Pizza boxes as recyclable: what’s important to remember

Are pizza boxes recyclable? There is no easy answer to the question as it varies from one locality to another in Australia. Australian councils have different waste management companies which sequentially have different rules and mandates.

With pizza boxes, there’s a big risk that there will be food and grease. So a lot of Australian councils are saying no to pizza boxes.

Pizza boxes made from cardboard are inherently recyclable, meaning that to a degree, pizzas boxes can indeed be recycled.

Are Pizza Boxes Recyclable


But they may create a problem because of contamination issues. It is important to recognise that the crux of the matter is when contamination comes into play. Simply put, once soiled, the paper cannot be recycled. This is because the paper fibres will not separate from the oils during the pulping process.

Too much grease and oil can influence the quality of the pulped cardboard. As a result, this could ruin a batch of potentially reusable paper. During the recycling of paper, mixing it with water is the initial step.

Turning the combo into a slurry, where the oil residues then rise to the top.

Separating paper fibres from the oils is virtually impossible. It can cause problems with the binding of the fibres. Essentially, it can compromise and ruin the whole recycling batch.


How do you recycle contaminated pizza boxes?

In theory, recycling is a relatively straightforward concept. In the long run, an increase in the success rate of pizza boxes that are recyclable is our endgame.

So, how do you know whether a pizza box is too greasy to recycle? Sit down first and think about it: can it really be recycled? Do not try to recycle it right away and search for possible options to deal with it.

To avoid contamination of clean materials, cut off the clean tops of your pizza boxes. Afterwards, you can send the bottoms of your pizza boxes to the trash.

Remember that it only takes one greasy box to ruin a batch of potentially reusable paper.

After recycling the top portion of your box, you can throw it in the garbage or – even better – compost it! To compost a pizza box, you need to break it into smaller pieces and place it in your compost bin.

Food and grease-ridden paper items are capable of disintegrating and will break down over time.

Check with your local recycling programs to find out more about the policies in your respective locales and municipalities. One example we have heard of that can recycle is in Onkaparinga, Adelaide. There, they can accept your greasy pizza boxes and allow you to put them in the recycling/yellow bin. Make sure to clean it first (clean or wash containers before recycling, people). But if it still has food residue on it, then you should send it in to the organic waste bin.

Although most do not allow them, some allow boxes with minimal grease for recycling, whilst others allow them to mingle it in with compost.


The bottom line on pizza boxes labeled as recyclable

Discrepancies regarding recycling come in varying senses of urgency and magnitude.

From modest recyclable pizza boxes to more grandiose worldwide recycling schemes and initiatives. Regardless of which, each of us has the potential and capability to extend a helping hand to Mother Nature.

Starting with awareness of how our actions impact our environment is always a good first step to keep in mind. In addition, knowing what works for us in terms of recycling is the very essence or most important point at issue.

Putting to heart know-hows as regards waste segregation and management, we can surmount whatever comes our way.

Always remember that any and every succeeding step are in the palm of your hand.


A bit about Waster

Waster provides services to small and medium Australian businesses. We are a waste and recycling services business with distinct differences.

Our focus is on two main things – helping businesses reduce their costs and also boosting recycling!

For further information, please visit Waster’s official website.


We recently published a podcast on this topic – which you can see below:

Pizza Boxes – Yeah or Nay? ♻️ Podcast Ep. 11 Don’t Be A Waster



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Pizza Boxes – Yeah Or Nay?

We all eat pizzas! Or, at least, most of us. And if you are me, far too often, judging by my waistline!

Can we recycle pizza boxes? Can we put them in our regular cardboard bin? We discuss the facts like whether you need to clean them or just wipe off excess grease.


Transcript: Pizza Boxes – Yeah or Nay?

Hello and welcome to another edition of our recycling podcast Recycle: Don’t Be A Waster in today’s podcast we will we’ll not go into some of the more I suppose political aspects or maybe controversial aspects that we have covered in some of our more recent episodes but we will I suppose cover a podcast like a question that we get asked at Waster almost every week it’s almost it seems so simple it’s but it leads to an awful lot of confusion due to changing I suppose slightly changing guidance and also some you know some misunderstandings out there in the market and so I suppose this is a recycling question that impacts almost everyone the question is can you put a pizza box a cardboard pizza box into your recycling bin at either your home or your or your business and so I suppose that’s the question and I’ll be honest I’ve seen it written also I’ve seen people say I’ve seen businesses I’ve seen councils say do not put pizza boxes in your recycling bin and this stems from I suppose the reasoning is that the pizza box absorbs grease from the pizza this is the argument there could be leftover food on the box.


There could be you know piece of cheese, vegetables etc you know maybe pepperoni and the grease and fat gets into the cardboard and the argument is that this cardboard will not be recycled that it will lead to the batch you know the bin being regarded as contamination and it will end up in landfill so that is that’s you know that’s the argument like I suppose I’ll say you know my view on this is in the vast majority of cases that will not be the case I’ll go out on a limb a little bit here because you know some councils may be much more prescriptive in in their guidance on what is you know what goes in the cardboard box cardboard bin but I’m going to be honest I think in the vast majority of cases and I’ll explain why in the vast majority of cases we will explain why it can reasonably safely with some small adjustments small checks you can feel very confident placing it in your cardboard recycling bin that’s your blue bin you know.


I suppose the first reason is and why we cover this is nearly everybody most people I know and maybe telling you know that sort of the quality of diet that I consume but nearly everybody the vast majority of people enjoy pizza take away a pizza it’s I suppose in egalitarian food that the vast majority of people buy you know whether it’s once a week once a month or you know parties etc so it’s a very common thing and so we’re talking huge volumes of cardboard we’re literally talking I suppose millions and millions of pizzas are being sold I don’t have the exact statistics but millions of pizzas are being sold all across Australia and globally every single day you know I think domino’s is probably one of the main chains and it’s in every town you know so what is the cardboard box that is used for pizzas it is unusually it is you know we often talk about how packaging we should move away from plastic to you know to cardboard etc for different reasons you know we don’t need to do that with pizza boxes.


They are made from what from platform cardboard they’re already a recyclable, environmentally friendly recycle and packaging system so that that’s a great thing we’re very happy with that and so why knock it let’s just go let’s just make sure we recycle these things so they’re nearly always cardboard and they keep the pizza warm and then you know when you’re when you eat the pizza like all I will say is you know the argument is that if the pizza box has a lot of grease and fat it disrupts the recycling process you know when you take cardboard to a recycling plant and there are dedicated facilities for cardboard it’s probably the most easily recycled or me you know main recycling stream globally it’s traded on international exchanges you can get rebates if you have very large amounts so it’s probably outside of metal it’s probably the most accepted and widespread recycling system in in place in 2022.


When you recycle cardboard obviously this the processes and the facilities in place they’re capable of removing colourings of you know of paints from those you know inks from the from the cardboard boxes the vast majority of systems are very capable of accepting a small amount of a small amount of grease a small amount of fat whatever it is as long as it’s within reason so you know we would always say if you’ve got the carbon box you know take out any remaining food scrape it off throw it in to throw that into giant waste or into your compost heap and have the cardboard box as clean as possible some people would all would argue that you should you know shave off even a bit take off maybe the top or the bottom or whatever it is maybe the internal some boxes will even have an internal liner that you know cardboard again that you could take out and put in general waste if you wanted to be extra sensitive extra sensible and that’s possible.


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I’ll be honest I don’t even think that’s required in the vast majority of cases I think as long as the pizza you know the food has been removed the grease and fat you know you maybe rub off any excess if you feel you need to and you know put that in the general waist or composting and then I would feel very confident in putting that cardboard box which is fundamentally what it is it’s just a cardboard box placing that into your blue recycling bin I’ll be honest I don’t think I can recall ever hearing of a recycling truck rejecting a pizza a bin because it’s got a pizza box pizza container in it you know I think when we’re looking at contamination if we’re looking in the world of contamination in recycling collections you know this this is very far down our list I think we have we’re in a scenario where we’re used to seeing plastic bags placing bins we’re used to seeing different items and as technology improves we’re getting better and better at removing these from the recycling streams obviously that’s not to say we shouldn’t put the effort in to manually remove them clearly that makes it much better.


I think in the in the hierarchy of contamination I do think a little bit of grease is probably very low down your list you know in car in the cardboard bin I’d even say in cardboard bins you have more pressing issues going into those bins you’ll have you know glossy paper you’ll have envelopes with plastic windows you’ll have a lot of stuff staples all these sort of things will go in and in the vast majority of cases as long as the pizza box is reasonably clean it should be it should not be an issue some councils make one of their way to specify things but I think in from my experience for surely from a commercial perspective dealing with businesses and residentials I think you’d be you’d be perfectly fine and I think it’s a rule of thumb just keep doing it unless somebody stops you unless someone says this is the reason why not to do it in your particular neighbourhood so that’s the rule of thumb and you know carry on as you were.


I think we’ll do some more of these podcasts over the next couple of weeks covering probably some of the more common questions the more common questions that impact a lot of people that impact you know general users of recycling services just so we can help people get the info they need to really boost recycling performance boost those recycling percentages because there’s one thing that really annoys me it’s when we’re needlessly not recycling things you know there’s we have a lot of valid complaints you know anyone listening knows we in people who are keen on recycling we’re not sure of things to complain about we have valid complaints and we’ll cover these in future episodes things that can be recycled but aren’t because we don’t have the facilities you know examples like kids nappies and these sort of things but in the world you know there’s a lot of easy things that we can recycle with a lot of confidence and effectiveness and you know it’s just probably having that confidence to do it and not having misinformation maybe you know confusing people so that’s where we leave it today you know I think it is January I think people if you haven’t broken your new year’s resolutions by now I think it’s perfectly fine to go and buy a pizza you know if your new year’s resolution was diet you know I think you’ve come long enough so feel confident to get a pizza and know that the packaging is recyclable and as long as you take some simple precautions simple steps you can be confident it will be recycled so we’ll leave it there today and once again our tagline is recycle don’t be a Waster and we’ll ask you to you know like share comment do what you do you know on social media etc because the more people do that the more we get I believe we are higher ranked by the algorithms from you know YouTube Spotify these sort of services and the more that happens the more people listen and yeah it hopefully is a virtuous circle for recycle okay have a great day and yeah see you later.


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