Are Pizza Boxes Recyclable? The Answer Has Changed
While most people would never label me particularly "green", I see great value in recycling; I'm the person who called my recycling provider to get a bigger bin because I used to routinely run out of space for my paper, glass, plastic, and tin every week. I'm also pretty good at knowing what can and what can't be recycled - even if it means ripping apart packaging (to remove the un-recyclable materials) so that it can be properly placed in the bin.
Most people are pretty good about knowing what can and what can't be recycled; in many ways most of it is common sense. However, some people fall into the category of something that's called "wish-cycling" (i.e. - the act of putting something into a recycling bin just because you "wish" or "think" it should be recycled, while completely ignoring the regulations that clearly state you can't recycle it.
One of those "wish-cycling" items has been pizza boxes; they're made out of paper, so they must be recyclable. The answer - at least according to recycling providers - has always been "no", pizza boxes are not recyclable. This was usually due to the amount of grease or food-waste that was left on the box. Recycling wisdom was that those contaminants not only prevented the pizza boxes from being recycled, but they also polluted the rest of the paper in the bin - rendering it from being recyclable.
Apparently, this has changed.
An article that was visibly being shared on social media caught my eye. A feature of the Sierra Club, the information suggested that the verdict on recycling pizza boxes had changed and now they were in fact fair game for the bin. According to the author:
"73 percent of the US population has access to recycling programs that accept pizza boxes. And a recent survey of companies that belong to the American Forest & Paper Association found that pizza-box acceptance is now almost universal among companies that manufacture from recycled cardboard."
Apparently the change is due to evolving technology. While cheese and grease used to be a problem, modern technology allows the sorter to filter it out - rendering the remaining paper completely usable in the process of making new paper out of it.
Good news? Yes - if you recycle. Pizza boxes (or, any food box for that matter) comprises a large volume of garbage these days - especially as people consume take-out food in a larger volume than ever before. (COVID-19, anyone?)
Before I started throwing pizza boxes into my recycle bin, I decided to check with my provider Waste Management. Waste Management also collects the recyclables for the majority of the Northland. According to their website - yes, you can confidently recycle your pizza boxes. Who knew?