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Pizza Boxes Are Recyclable, According to New Study

A recently released study conducted by Atlanta-based paper company WestRock CP, LLC investigated several aspects of the recycling of post-consumer pizza boxes. The study points out that approximately 3 billion pizza boxes are used each year in the U.S.; however, grease and cheese contamination of the boxes has been thought to impact their viability for recycling. Ultimately, the study concludes that the typical grease and cheese levels found on post-consumer pizza boxes have a minimal impact on the strength of finished articles made using the typical level of less than 3% post-consumer pizza boxes. Other notable findings of the study include:

  • Post-consumer pizza boxes are estimated to contain 1-2% grease;

  • Cheese is hydrophilic, does not hinder hydrogen inter-fiber bonding of fibers, and tends to be screened out as solids during the recycled pulping process;

  • At inclusion rates approaching 20%, grease from post-consumer pizza boxes does interfere with inter-fiber bonding and results in significant (~5%) paper strength loss.

The study supports that “there is no significant technical reason to prohibit post-consumer pizza boxes from the recycle stream.” The findings of the study are intended to inform the use of post-consumer pizza boxes and educate consumers about the levels of grease and cheese contamination that is acceptable for such pizza boxes. Based on the study, the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA) is encouraging communities to update their residential recycling programs guidelines to explicitly accept pizza boxes that are free of food.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 212

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About this Author

PackagingLaw.com is the premier online resource for the global packaging industry. It provides a wide range of information on laws and regulations—both in the U.S. and other countries throughout the world—that affect packages and packaging materials. PackagingLaw.com features news articles on current issues affecting the packaging industry, in-depth features, an Ask an Attorney section, links to packaging industry and government websites, and detailed information on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Contact Notification system.

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