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Can You Compost Pizza Boxes?

Can You Compost Pizza Boxes? - Almost Zero Waste

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If you wonder how to dispose of a pizza box the right way, let’s start with the question –

Can you compost pizza boxes?

Yes. You should compost the parts of the pizza box that are dirty with food. 

Food crumbs and greasy stains won’t be accepted at the recycling facilities. The ultimate way is to cut the dirty parts of the box into small pieces and put them in your compost bin.

Pizza boxes are compostable, but you can still recycle the parts of the box, that wasn’t contaminated with food.

Confused? I’ll explain. 

Let’s take a closer look at WHY you should compost the dirty parts of a pizza box, and how you can recycle the rest. We will go through:

  1. Are used pizza boxes recyclable?
  2. Can you compost pizza boxes?
  3. Can you put pizza boxes in the green bin?
  4. What is the best way to dispose of pizza boxes?
  5. Final tips
  6. Conclusion 

1. Are used pizza boxes recyclable? 

The box is made from cardboard, so it makes sense – pizza boxes should be fully recyclable. Yes… but not really.

The tricky part is that inside the box, it is food, which leaves marks. 

For example, when pizza sauce, cheese, grease, and even some crumbs drip onto the box – it makes it NON-recyclable. In fact, this can cause tremendous problems in a recycling facility.

When oil sticks to the cardboard – it stays there, and it can’t be washed.

The food changes the way the fibers bind together during the recycling process; plus, it can lead to contamination of the whole batch. 

Food is probably one of the worst contaminants in the paper recycling process.

If you want to read more about paper recycling, you can do it in my article here, but in a nutshell, when cardboard and other paper are recycled, they are mixed with water and turned into a “slurry.” 

The paper fibers will not be able to be separated from the oils during the pulping process.

Can You Compost Pizza Boxes? - Almost Zero Waste

So if a greasy pizza box ends in a recycling center, it can cause an entire recycling batch to be thrown away.

So, the best thing to do once you finish your pizza is:

  1. Check out the box and see if there are clean spots.
  2. The down part will probably be full of stains and greasy parts. Check the top piece, too. If the top part didn’t touch the food, then you can recycle it. 
  3. Cut the dirty parts, and trim them in small pieces. Then, throw them in your compost bin, or where you collect your food scraps.
  4. Recycle the clean parts.
Related post: How To Recycle Paper – The ultimate guide

2. Can you compost pizza boxes?

Probably it is best to compost your pizza box, in case your city doesn’t accept them for recycling. 

The grease on the pizza box won’t create any problems in your compost pile.

If you have a Worm composter, then you can use the cardboard as bedding for your compost – your worms will love it.

Related post: Apartment Composting: All you need to know & 7 ways
Can You Compost Pizza Boxes? - Almost Zero Waste

3. Can you put pizza boxes in the green bin?

Yes, you most definitely can.

In the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK, the green bin is a large container that collects biodegradable waste, food waste, and compostable materials as a goal to stop food waste from ending up in landfills.

If you don’t have a composter at home, you can surely throw the parts of the dirty pizza box in the green bin.

NOTE:

Please keep in mind that…

Other municipalities and countries may have containers for biodegradable waste but in a different color.

For instance, in Barcelona (Spain) and Zagreb (Croatia), the bins for organic waste are in brown.

Just do a quick research and see if your city has containers for biowaste.

Can You Compost Pizza Boxes? - Almost Zero Waste

4. What is the best way to dispose of pizza boxes?

Whatever fits your current situation will be the best way. So, for everyone will be different. 

Overall, you have 3 options:

  • recycle the parts that are clean from grease and don’t have any food traces (smaller cardboard pieces is the best since there will be more space).
  • compost the greasy and stained pizza box parts in your compost pile.
  • throw the dirty parts in your green bin (or similar bin that’s meant for organic waste).

5. Final tips

 1) See how your city handles pizza boxes 

The annoying part about recycling is that everywhere the guidelines are different, which makes it so much harder for us. 

Whether or not a pizza box can be recycled all depends on the city.

Do a quick search online and see what the recycling requirements for your city are. 

Can You Compost Pizza Boxes? - Almost Zero Waste

2) Other food packaged in paper 

Similarly to pizza boxes, other paper packaging tarnished with food, or grease, or food, are not recyclable.

In that case, you have the same option – remove the stained parts & compost them, and recycle the clean part.

That can be donut boxes, fast food bags, sandwich wraps, etc.

3) DIY or dine in!

If you are trying to lower your single-use waste (or waste in general), but you love pizza, then make it at home!

You can experiment with the ingredients, you can try cauliflower pizza crust, and you can make it much healthier!

Or if you don’t have time, or you want a quick meal, you can go out and dine in at your favorite pizza restaurant.

Can You Compost Pizza Boxes? - Almost Zero Waste

6. Conclusion

So, there you have it.

Even though it seems like an obvious question, a lot of times, we think that we can recycle the whole pizza box or other paper items that are dirty with food.

And as we figured, that can be very bad for the recycling process.

The truth is that recycling is a very tricky business.

A lot of people think that is the best thing to do, but the truth is that finding reusables, and lowering our single-use waste, as much as possible, is the best option.

There is so much waste already on our planet. And we should be more mindful and try to avoid single-use items in our everyday life. 

It doesn’t matter if this is plastic, glass, paper, or metal – single-use is definitely not the way to go.

Finally, feel free to share in the comments below where do you live and what are the requirements for recycling pizza boxes, so that we can help each other out!

2 Comments

    1. That’s a great question! I wasn’t sure what’s the answer, so I did a quick research. What I found is –
      Pizza boxes can be composted as long as they don’t have any plastic coatings or toxic inks. Most inks are soy-based, which is completely safe, and it makes sense that the pizza box should contain safe chemicals, as we eat the content inside. However, some paper materials (like newspapers) contain petroleum or other toxic chemicals that aren’t safe. So, how to spot toxic inks? The method I found is:
      – Slide your finger over the surface of the ink and rub it a little. If a lot of deep, inky black residue smudges your finger, this could mean that the paper uses petroleum oil. (make sure to wash your hands good after that!) That type of ink will not be safe to compost it in your garden.
      A danish study was looking into toxic substances in food contact materials, like pizza boxes. They found that there is some toxic content in recycled food packagings. If you want to read more about it, I will include links to the study below:
      https://www.ecomundo.eu/en/blog/food-packaging-toxicity
      https://chemicalwatch.com/47798/danish-study-tracks-toxicity-in-cardboard-food-packaging

      Further resources:
      https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-expert/featured/ink-bad-my-vegetables
      http://compost.css.cornell.edu/faq.html#newspaper

      I hope this helps! Let me know if you have more questions. 🙂

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