Pizza boxes. They’re made of cardboard, so they can be recycled, right?
Unfortunately, that’s only partially correct.
While it’s true that takeaway pizza boxes are indeed made from cardboard, an almost universally recycled material, the problem with putting used boxes in the recycling bin is that the corrugated card packaging is usually spoiled with a greasy residue left in the food’s wake.
This oil causes severe issues during the recycling process, with tonnes of otherwise acceptable cardboard being rejected each year because it has been contaminated with too much grease. Rather than being converted back into another useful resource, it tends to end up being incinerated or piled onto the nearest landfill, which is something we are passionate about avoiding.
Furthermore, manufacturing recycled cardboard only consumes around 75% of the energy used to make new cardboard from virgin pulp.
HOW DO PIZZA BOXES GET RECYCLED?
The mechanics behind it are quite simple. Once a batch of cardboard reaches a recycling plant or materials recovery facility, it is shredded and mixed with a solution of water, detergents and bleaching agents to make a pulp which can be turned into all manner of new paper products, from newspapers and magazines to fresh cardboard boxes.
It can even be treated to remove ink, staples and even sticky tape without too much of an issue.
However, oils are a much trickier problem to solve. Due to the molecular structure of grease, it coats and clings to practically everything it comes into contact with, making the strands of recoverable fibres much shorter than they otherwise would be, and reducing the quality of the recycled paper to such a degree that it can become practically useless.
It also has a detrimental effect on the equipment used during the process, and as paper recycling uses cold water rather than hot, the grease can’t be broken down effectively and can build up to unmanageable levels.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that your takeaway pizza box is destined for the bin, though.
REMOVE ALL THE FOOD
The easiest way to assess how badly affected your pizza box is, is to pick out any clumps of cheese or other toppings which have fallen off the pizza for bonus nibbles. It’s a tough job, but it definitely needs doing.
From here, you’ll be able to make a swift judgement as to whether or not your pizza box is likely to pass the grade. A small amount of oil, while not ideal, won’t be a problem – just try to soak up any excess with a napkin or kitchen towel…and make sure you don’t leave your crusts inside!
If it’s swimming in grease, though, things aren’t looking too good from a recycling collection point of view, but it can still be torn up into small pieces and put inside a compost bin rather than being thrown out.
RECYCLE THE LIDS
Even if the bottom of the box isn’t recyclable, it doesn’t mean that the top part of the box has to suffer a similar fate.
Check the lid for any oily contamination, and if it’s mostly clear then it’s good to go into your recycling pile. A 50% recycling rate is better than nothing, after all.
Something you may not have noticed on your takeaway boxes is that there should be two open holes on the rear-side panel of it. This helps to regulate the temperature of your pizza during transport, as well as letting out any condensation which would otherwise build up on the lid and making the contents soggy.
SUPERMARKET PIZZA BOXES
Supermarket pizza boxes are a different beast altogether. The food is generally chilled or frozen, as well as being wrapped inside a plastic cover, which means that any oils from the pizza don’t seep out onto the outer cardboard packaging.
The result of this is that supermarket pizza boxes are almost all recyclable. It’s best to check for any toppings which may have come loose, and removing any plastic ‘windows’ is also going to be very helpful further down the line.
FRESH START WASTE
Here at Fresh Start, we are experts when it comes to the collection and recycling of food waste from takeaways, restaurants and pubs throughout the North West of England. If your business needs a reliable, environmentally-conscious waste management team to deal with your food waste, then give us a call on 01942 879 440 or use our Contact Form for a free, no-obligation quote.