four pizza boxes stacked up.
Pizza Box Recycling

Pizza Box Recycling and Disposal

Order a takeaway pizza and it’ll likely arrive in a standard pizza box. This packaging is a convenient way for takeaway shops to get your pizza from A to B – keeping it warm and protecting it from damage during delivery. While they may be handy, disposing of them sustainably can be tricky.

Recycling a pizza box is the most environmentally friendly disposal method, so the box can be reused to create new cardboard products and avoids going to landfill. However, pizza box recycling isn’t always straightforward due to the risk of cheesy contamination. Discover everything you need to know about pizza box recycling and disposal.

Pizza box recycling

  • Who invented the pizza box?

    What came first – the pizza or the box? Well, while the word pizza can be traced back to 997AD in southern Italy, the first official patent for a pizza box was made much more recently in 1963. It was made from corrugated cardboard and opened to the sides, so pretty similar to the modern-day version.

    Tom Monaghan is credited with inventing the pizza box as he sought a company to develop such corrugated cardboard boxes to efficiently transport pizzas during delivery for his business Domino’s. Later on, Domino’s then started creating easily stackable ‘Chicago folding’ boxes in the 1980s, even if they didn’t file a patent for the new design.

  • Why is corrugated cardboard used for pizza boxes?

    Pizza boxes are made from 100% corrugated cardboard. This is because it’s a cheap, easily stackable, and highly resilient form of packaging. Air pockets in the corrugated card help trap heat generated by the freshly cooked pizza, keeping it hot when out for delivery.

    Corrugated cardboard is good at regulating temperature and humidity to ensure your pizza arrives warm and not dried out. They’re also highly absorbent, which means they capture any excess oils that might come off your pizza while it’s in transit. This prevents the box developing holes and the pizza falling out.

  • Can you recycle pizza boxes?

    Yes, you can recycle most pizza boxes as they’re made from 100% cardboard – one of the most recycled materials in the UK. However, to recycle a pizza box it must be clean and dry, free from potential contaminants such as food waste (leftover bits of melted cheese, toppings, and excess grease).

    If there are small amounts of grease, oil, or stains though, you should still be fine to recycle the pizza box. Just try and dab up as much as possible with a kitchen towel. Recycling pizza boxes is far more eco-friendly than throwing them away with general waste where they’ll end up in landfill or incineration.

  • How do you dispose of pizza boxes?

    Providing your pizza box isn’t swimming in excess grease, you can easily add it to your own household mixed recycling bin alongside other bits of paper and cardboard recycling. If the box’s base is too greasy, you can easily remove the lid and recycle the parts that aren’t contaminated. The rest should go in your general waste bin.

    Some takeaways even include cardboard discs that sit beneath the pizza, meaning the box itself is protected from any oils that might leak. For businesses, the same applies and you can normally recycle pizza boxes that aren’t contaminated with too much grease or food in bins for your cardboard recycling.

  • How are pizza boxes recycled?

    After cleaning your pizza box and throwing it an appropriate recycling bin, the bin will be collected and transported to a recycling centre for sorting. As pizza boxes are made from corrugated cardboard, they’re recycled alongside other cardboard and paper waste in the same way:

    • First the pizza box is broken down into small pieces.
    • It’s then mixed with water and a small quantity of wood chips and turned into a pulp.
    • This pulp is used to make toilet paper, kitchen roll, or other goods that are labelled as being made from recycled matter.
  • What are the problems with pizza box recycling?

    The main problem with recycling pizza boxes is that there are so many of them! Pizza is the top takeaway choice in the UK and each of those pizzas is delivered in a box. All those boxes stack up, and often they make their way into landfill rather than being recycled.

    Many people assume you can’t recycle pizza boxes because they’re greasy, but that’s far from the case. Heavily contaminated pizza boxes (with lumps of cheese, toppings, and other food stuck on) can contaminate recycling loads. However, with minimal effort to remove these and soak up any grease you can recycle almost any pizza box.

  • Can you recycle supermarket pizza boxes?

    Yes, supermarket pizzas boxes are normally even easier to recycle than takeaway boxes. This is because they’re made from cardboard and the pizza is normally in a plastic wrapper, which avoids any food or grease contaminating the cardboard box. Check no loose toppings escape and remove any plastic windows, then you can throw away with your mixed recycling.

  • Are there alternatives to binning your pizza box?

    Instead of binning your takeaway pizza boxes, you should recycle them. This might be a case of popping them in your household recycling bin along with other paper and cardboard waste or taking them to a waste disposal site with a cardboard bank. Businesses can recycle pizza boxes in dedicated cardboard or dry mixed recycling bins.

    Sometimes you can find recycling points at convenient locations such as supermarkets. In most areas your local council-run services should collect your recycling bins to help you dispose of pizza boxes in an environmentally friendly manner.

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