The Truth About Recycling Pizza Boxes and Other Paper Products

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Recycling can be tricky, especially when it comes to pizza boxes. Contrary to popular belief, most pizza boxes can be recycled. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) advises that you can recycle pizza boxes even if they have grease stains, just make sure to remove any leftover food and flatten the box before recycling. However, not all paper products are recyclable, like glittery gift wrap or juice boxes due to their coatings. It’s also a myth that recyclables need to be perfectly clean; a simple rinse usually does the trick.

Sorting Out the Myths

Pizza boxes have often been mistakenly thought of as non-recyclable because of the grease and cheese they might carry. However, the EPA and other organizations like the American Forest and Paper Association confirm that greasy pizza boxes are acceptable in recycling bins, provided they are free of actual food leftovers.

This acceptance is due to studies from companies such as WestRock, which show that the typical amount of grease and cheese found on pizza boxes doesn’t pose a problem for the recycling process. So next time, don’t hesitate to recycle your pizza box—just toss out any stuck slices or cheese first!

Not All Paper is Created Equal

While you might think all paper products belong in the recycling bin, that’s not always the case. Items like metallic wrapping paper or juice boxes are not suitable due to their special coatings. Paper mills require specific technologies to handle these materials, and not all facilities are equipped for this task.

Similarly, paper receipts can be problematic. Many are coated with chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA), which can contaminate the recycling process. If you scratch a receipt and see a dark line, it’s likely not recyclable.

Recycling Right

There’s also a common misconception that items must be completely clean to be recycled. In reality, just removing major residues or giving a quick rinse is enough. Over-cleaning can waste water and isn’t necessary for the recycling process.

Susan Collins of the Container Recycling Institute notes that some containers can simply be soaked to ease cleaning, or even tossed in the dishwasher, making the process easier and more efficient.

Knowing Your Local Rules

It’s crucial to understand what your local recycling system can actually process. This varies by region, and just because one area accepts pizza boxes, doesn’t mean all will. Always check with your local guidelines to avoid recycling the wrong items and causing more harm than good.

As Reid Lifset from Yale points out, it’s essential to do a bit of research to ensure that what you put in your bin is indeed recyclable in your area, avoiding unnecessary problems and costs for your local facilities.

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