The Ultimate Guide to Recycling Pizza Boxes

During the pandemic, images of overflowing bins and recycling containers became a common sight. The surge in waste production, including packaging from online deliveries and takeaways, was a significant concern. Amongst the chaos, one question arose: Can we recycle pizza boxes? To find the answers, I had the opportunity to speak with Adam Herriott, a resource management specialist at the Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap), an organization dedicated to recycling and the circular economy.

The Problem of Recycling Contamination

Recycling contamination, the act of putting the wrong items in the wrong bin, is a pressing issue. Even a single instance of contamination can result in an entire truckload of recyclables being rejected. Having worked as a recycling manager in the past, Herriott highlighted that the rejection rate reached around 9% of vehicle loads due to this problem.

Unexpected Items in the Bins

Curiosity piqued my interest, and I asked Herriott about the peculiar things people often put in their bins. Surprisingly, he mentioned firearms and animals as some of the unexpected items that found their way into recycling bins. The conversations took an unexpected turn, but the lesson was clear: it’s crucial to dispose of waste correctly.

Avoiding Wish-Cycling and Aspirational Recycling

To address this issue, we must avoid wish-cycling, which refers to the act of putting items in the recycling bin without certainty. It’s essential to consult local recycling guidelines provided by your council or use resources like Recycle Now’s guide. While commingled bins used to be popular, Herriott emphasized the importance of segregated bins. By keeping paper and cardboard clean and dry, they become highly valuable recyclables.

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The Fate of Pizza Boxes

Now, back to the burning question: Can pizza boxes be recycled? According to Herriott, pizza boxes can indeed be recycled as long as there is no cheese or significant food residue. In such cases, it’s best to tear off the affected portion. The challenge lies in the proper disposal of food waste and other solids, which are collectively referred to as “3D waste.” It’s also advisable to rinse and squash containers to maximize space and ease recycling efforts.

The Complexities of Sustainable Packaging

While cardboard has become a popular alternative to plastic for takeout containers, it’s not without its challenges. Herriott stressed that they don’t advocate for one material over another; instead, they encourage people and businesses to consider the bigger picture. For instance, compostable coffee-cup lids can cause issues if mistakenly mixed with plastic waste. Therefore, proper waste management systems and awareness are crucial.

The Reality of Recycling

As the conversation unfolded, I couldn’t help but feel a bit overwhelmed by the high stakes associated with recycling. However, Herriott reassured me that making the occasional mistake is understandable. It becomes problematic when a significant quantity of non-recyclable items ends up in recycling bins. Nappies, for example, should never be placed in recycling bins, despite their papery texture, as they contain 3D waste that can create difficulties during the sorting process.

Recycling Habits During the Pandemic

Lastly, I asked Herriott about the impact of the pandemic on recycling habits. Although official data is still pending, anecdotally, it appears that people did recycle more during this period. Fortunately, pizza boxes with food remnants were not a major concern. After all, wasting good pizza is something we can all agree is unacceptable.

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In conclusion, recycling is a responsibility we all share to protect our environment. By understanding the basics of recycling and following local guidelines, we can ensure our efforts in reducing waste are effective. Let’s remember to dispose of pizza boxes responsibly, tearing off any food residue and keeping them dry. Together, we can make a difference and create a more sustainable future.

For more information about sustainable practices and delicious food, visit Hook’d Up Bar and Grill.