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Did You Know…

March 20, 2011

Many people assume that pizza boxes are recyclable because they are made of corrugated cardboard.  And in most cases, they really are.  However, it’s what goes inside that pizza box that makes parts of it non-recyclable…the grease, leftover toppings, and cheese from the pizza.   Unless you remove the tainted portions, you’re causing more harm than good.

Food is one of the worst contaminants in the paper recycling process. Grease and oil are not as big of a problem for plastic, metal and glass, as those materials are recycled using a heat process. But when paper products, like cardboard, are recycled, they are mixed with water and turned into a slurry. Since we all know water and oil don’t mix, the issue is clear.

Grease from pizza boxes causes oil to form at the top of the slurry, and paper fibers cannot separate from oils during the pulping process. Essentially, this contaminant causes the entire batch to be ruined. It’s for this reason that other food related items are non-recyclable (used paper plates, used napkins, used paper towels, etc).  Some estimates put the costs of irresponsible contamination around $700 million per year!

So the next time you go to recycle your pizza box (or any recyclable container for that matter), take a good look inside, dump or rinse out any food particles and cut or tear out any soiled portions.  Put those in your trash and recycle any remaining parts.  The extra steps may take a few more minutes, but you’ll be recycling with a guilt-free conscience.

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