Pizza is the most popular takeaway food in the world by a long stretch (dough jokes aplenty in this article), and so it is not surprising that one of the most often-asked questions regarding composting is whether a pizza box can be composted.
Now, we’re not going to keep you waiting for the answer until the end of the article, but what we are going to recommend is that you keep on reading, because whilst the answer is yes – you can compost pizza boxes, BUT, there are some rules and caveats you should bear in mind.
Can you recycle used pizza boxes?
Yes! Used pizza boxes may, in some cases, be able to be recycled with your regular cardboard.
You can only recycle your pizza boxes in this way if they are dry and free of food, grease, oil, and sauce.
Only place these cardboard pizza boxes in the recycling bin if you are certain they are totally clean. Even if there are just a few crumbs or a small patch of grease, this renders the thing unrecyclable.
In fact, recycling it anyway can cause huge issues for the workers at the recycling plant as it may contaminate other recyclable materials placed in the bag and truck.
However, do not fret. Greasy pizza boxes can also be recycled in their own way (more on this later).
First, we need to assess how to recycle pizza boxes. The best way to recycle clean pizza boxes is to cut them into smaller pieces (or tear them up if you are feeling strong, and separate any greasy bits.
The likelihood is that the top of the pizza box will be clean and ready to go, but the bottom may have some grease marks or sauce.
For pizza boxes that are heavily laden with grease (more grease than clean cardboard) just pop them to one side and we will deal with it later in the article.
If your box can be salvaged, you could cut out the grease and food with scissors. This will work if there is just a small mark of grease on the bottom of the box and the rest is fine.
Cut the greasy patch out and place the entirely clean pieces into the recycle bin. Alternatively, just recycle the clean top of the box and save the greasy bottom for a different kind of recycling!
Can pizza boxes go in the green bin?
In some places around the world, these green bins may not be green at all, but the premise is the same.
Whether they are green or pink, brown or yellow, whatever bin is used for biodegradable waste and leftover food is what we mean.
The goal of these green bins is to prevent this waste from going to landfill because it can, instead, be used for compost and other resources by local authorities.
Any biodegradable waste can be placed in these bins, not just food, and since pizza boxes are made from cardboard, they certainly count.
Now, in most cases, clean cardboard can be recycled normally. However, because the cardboard used for pizza boxes is often contaminated with food and grease, something else needs to be done.
This is where the green bin comes in. You can place your used and greasy pizza boxes in these bins along with any leftovers from the pizza (although meat and dairy shouldn’t really go in the compost – so veggie pizzas only!).
The easiest way to put pizza boxes in the green (or whatever color) bin is to cut the box up into smaller pieces so that it fits in well and so you can still place it in any other waste until the bin gets collected.
If you have some clean pieces of cardboard that you want to recycle such as the lid of the box then rip or cut that out.
You could also just cut out the greasy parts of the box and the areas that have food on them to place those in the green bin and put the clean pieces in your recycling bin.
How to Compost Pizza Boxes
Wait, are pizza boxes good for compost?
Yes! A huge resounding yes to the compost question! Pizza boxes, believe it or not, are excellent for your compost bin. In fact, the greasier the better.
The grease of the pizza will not harm your compost bin in any way. If you have a worm compost bin they will love it even more.
We actually think that putting your pizza boxes in the compost bin is the easiest way to get rid of them.
No unnecessary cutting of grease and separating it from the clean bits. You know exactly where it is going and can be assured that it will be properly disposed of.
It provides a nice bulk for the compost, and while it may not be as nutrient-rich for the soil as veggies, fruit, and other organic matter, it breaks down quickly and works as a recycled ‘filler’ for the compost.
Keep in mind, however, that if there are any plastic or foil parts on the box, or if you have dipping sauce containers in there, they will not decompose in your compost bin and risk contaminating the compost with toxins from the plastic.
Remove any other material from the boxes, leaving just the cardboard (even if it is soiled with grease), and any decomposable leftovers such as crusts and peppers or other toppings you may have picked off the pizza.
If you wanted to, you could just throw the whole pizza box in. However, if you want it to break down into compost a little more quickly, we recommend that you tear it up into a few pieces.
If you don’t want to spend forever cutting them up into tiny bits, you don’t have to. But if you only have a small bin, you’ll want to at least chop them into quarters so you have more room for other compostable waste on top.
Related Reading: How to Set up a Kitchen Compost
How to dispose of pizza boxes
Disposing of a pizza box doesn’t need to be complicated. As you can see above, there are three main methods you can utilize when you want to dispose of your pizza box.
First thing’s first, we want to stress the importance of disposing of it properly. Do not just put it in the normal trash.
There is no need to. It can be recycled, placed into your compostable green bin, or even in your compost heap. There is no reason at all why yet more pizza boxes should end up in landfills – never to break down.
As we have stated, we think that the easiest way to dispose of a pizza box is to put it in your compost bin or heap.
This way you do not have to fuss around with cutting and separating, and you know exactly where it is going. You can be assured that you are doing good for the planet and sustainably disposing of your trash.
However, we are also well aware of the fact that you may not have a compost bin.
Many people won’t be able to due to living in cities or apartments where they don’t have a garden or outside space, let alone one big enough to need compost.
In this instance, you can either give your pizza boxes to a family member or friend who has got a compost bin or follow one of the other pizza box disposal methods.
Another option is to recycle the pizza box. Provided the box is totally free of grease, food leftovers, cheese, and even crumbs, you can place it in your normal cardboard recycling.
Now, the likelihood is that there will be at least some form of contamination on your box. It would be surprising to find a used pizza box that is clean and free of food waste.
However, it does happen, and so if this is you then you can simply cut it into pieces to fit your recycle bin and your job is done.
What is more likely to happen so that some of your pizza boxes will be clean and able to be recycled with cardboard. However, you may have some greasy bits.
In this case, you can tear off the clean piece (usually the lid) and pop it in the recycling. Keep back the greasy pieces and follow our method below.
For any greasy pieces of pizza box or pieces that may have cheese, toppings, crumbs, or sauce ground in, you can simply cut up the box and place it into your green bin (or whatever color bin you use for biodegradable and food waste).
Simply ensure it is the right size to fit in and free of plastic, foil, and other non-compostable materials, then your job is done!
There you have it! Three fool-proof methods for disposing of your pizza box. Pizza boxes are fully compostable as they break down quickly (yes, even when they are laden with grease).
However, we know not everyone has a compost bin.
Don’t worry though, if you don’t have a compost bin or heap at home, you can still get rid of your pizza boxes in a safe and environmentally friendly way by recycling them or putting them in the ‘green bin’!