Just in time for back-to-school, the eternal pizza-box question has finally been answered definitively. Pizza boxes can be recycled!
For as long as we can remember, people have debated the question of what to do with the empty pizza box. Although corrugated cardboard has been widely recycled for decades, many believed that cheese and grease residues in pizza boxes would cause problems in the recycling process. This summer, a study by WestRock, a company that makes and recycles corrugated boxes, found that typical amounts of these contaminants are acceptable after all. Others in the industry agreed, and news of their consensus was released in July by the American Forest and Paper Association (AF&PA).
This gives pizza purveyors a new opportunity to promote goodwill by reminding customers to recycle their boxes. At a minimum, pizza businesses should make sure the “Corrugated Recycles” emblem is printed on every pizza box. This symbol is already widely used and understood. Sharing confirmation of the boxes’ recyclability will give customers one more reason to feel good about ordering their favorite takeout meal. At the same time, the restaurant can demonstrate solidarity and alignment with customer values—more important today than ever.
The corrugated industry wants to increase collection of old corrugated containers (OCC) for recycling nationwide. Retailers have been the primary driver of corrugated’s 90-plus-percent recovery rate over the decades. But in today’s economy, more products are being delivered to households and fewer to physical stores. That means consumer recycling is now more important than ever for the corrugated industry to continue making new boxes, which contain 50% recycled fiber on average. The other 50% is comprised of new fiber from harvested trees grown in sustainably managed forests.
The compelling message is that pizza is delivered in sustainable packaging—made from recycled and renewable materials, and recyclable after use. Share the news, encourage your customers to do their part, and show your alignment with the values they hold dear.