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Why Can’t I Recycle Pizza Boxes?

January 18, 2012

We admit it, this is something that bugs us.  It was probably first in college, after ordering a late-night pizza, that we saw a label on the recycling bin: NO PIZZA BOXES.

Pizza Cat says you can't recycle this

photo from flickr / kendiala

For a college dorm, this must be an especially common problem: you’re just not allowed to recycle pizza boxes!  According to the recycling gurus at, it’s because of the oil.  Yes, the grease from pizza — though some entrepreneurial folks are turning it into a hot commodity as a biodiesel source— renders cardboard unusable for recycling.

It has to do with water and oil.  You may recall that they don’t mix very well.  Usually, paper and cardboard are recycled by forming a big watery slurry of paper pulp.  Any oil, including pizza grease, can ruin the whole recycling batch.

What can we do?  First, don’t try to “sneak” the pizza box in.  It’ll mess up a whole lot of recycling and may even harm machinery.  But you don’t have to throw the whole box into the landfill.  Tear off the top, trash the greasy parts, and recycle the rest!

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