The other day someone stopped me and asked why I put a pizza box in the trash can. I told them because it was trash, but didn’t really explain why it was trash. Needless to say the person wasn’t very happy with me and proceeded to take the box to the recycle bin. I then had to explain why I (the Sustainability Coordinator) was throwing away what appeared to be a recyclable material!
The easiest answer to this question is simple….grease! For hardcore recyclers and people who are trying to be more aware this answer is hard to swallow. But trying to recycle a greasy take out box actually does more harm than good. Although the box is usually made from corrugated cardboard, which is a recyclable material, the subsequent grease stains render it trash.
Because paper recycling is a water based process, grease and water (which do not mix) will contaminate the entire batch of paper. Paper contamination is estimated to cost the recycling industry as much as $700 million per year! These facts don’t just apply to pizza boxes, they also apply to paper plates, napkins and paper towels.
So what are your options…
- Throw the entire box away
- Cut or tear the soiled parts of the box and trash them, recycle the rest (You also want to remove stickers and coupons from the boxes as adhesives can foul a batch of paper just as oil can)
Even though you may not feel comfortable throwing away a recyclable, take comfort in knowing that you’ve helped to save a batch of recycled paper!