If you’ve ever gotten into a debate with someone about whether or not pizza boxes are recyclable in Gwinnett, chances are good that you’re both half-right!
The short answer: Greasy or food-crusted cardboard is not recyclable, but the clean part of the box is.
Why is it important to keep grease-stained cardboard and paper out of your recycling bin? Because like other types of recycling contamination, it puts good recyclables at risk of being landfilled. According to Recycle by City, “To recycle paper, manufacturers use a pulping process which mashes the paper back into cellulose fibers using water. When oil enters the stream the quality of the new paper is diminished, sometimes to the point of being worthless.”
Let’s say your favorite pizza comes in a box without a paper liner on the bottom. When all the slices are gone, you’re left with a grease-stained bottom part, but the top part of the box is still pretty clean. In this case, you would simply tear the box at the perforated edge and recycle the clean top, while trashing — or composting! — the greasy bottom part. If the box does come with a paper liner, you can toss that greasy liner in the trash but recycle the clean and flattened cardboard box.
If you’re not sure if the top or bottom is quite clean enough to be recycled, err on the side of putting it in the trash, since a greasy box can ruin a batch of paper recycling.
As for the little plastic triangles or small dipping sauce cups that come with pizza, those are unfortunately trash — they’re too small (smaller than two inches by two inches) to be sorted properly at the recycling plant.
Picture courtesy of Recycle by City