It feels good to recycle, but sometimes it can be unclear what can and cannot be recycled. One item that often comes up in conversations as a cause of confusion is old pizza boxes.
Can oily pizza boxes be recycled?
The short answer is generally not.
Pizza boxes, whilst generally made out of recyclable corrugated cardboard, they have a tendency to get soaked with oils and fats, which contaminate the paper and cannot be removed in the recycling process.
Dried cheese, uneaten crusts and loose and bits of meat or vegetables often remain in pizza boxes as well and these definitely cannot be recycled. Whilst much of this can be removed easily enough, any oil soaked cardboard cannot be recycled and many councils do not accept pizza boxes.
You’re never going to have the bin truck guys go through your recycling bins at your home to remove it, but your attempts to recycle it is causing people at the recycling plants to have to sort it and throw it out.
What if you really want to recycle a pizza box?
The short answer is you can, if you really want to.
Some parts of the pizza box that have not been soaked in oil and do not have food stuck to them can be cut off and recycled like any other bit of cardboard. If you have the time and energy to do this, great work. Often most of the lid and the sides of the boxes will be good enough to recycle. The base and any additional cardboard inserts generally wont’ be.
Are there the same rules everywhere?
Each local council around Australia has slightly different rules based on their recycling facilities. I just checked my local council and they actually encourage pizza box recycling.
“Accepted items for the recycling bin include advertising material, cereal & biscuit boxes, egg cartons, envelopes, greeting cards, magazines, milk cartons, newspaper, office paper, pizza boxes, takeaway containers, toilet rolls, washing powder boxes & wrapping paper.”
They mention no food scraps in another paragraph, but nothing in direct relation to pizza boxes and grease. I figure removing the greasy parts of pizza boxes is still the right thing to do, but you should check your own council websites to be sure.