Framingham Recycles: Tackling The Pizza Box Mystery

Editor’s Note:This is a new weekly column by the Recycling Coordinator for the City of Framingham. Residents can submit questions to Recycling Coordinator Stephen Sarnosky via SOURCE at


FRAMINGHAM – Many people assume that they can recycle pizza boxes. Unfortunately there has been a lot of confusion and even some “wish cycling” happening as it relates to greasy pizza boxes.

The fact is, that most pizza boxes have recycling symbols on them and are traditionally made from corrugated cardboard.

Pizza boxes, in and of itself can be recycled provided that they haven’t been contaminated with grease and other food debris.

As with any food container such as mayonnaise or peanut butter jars, for example that haven’t been cleaned, food is one of the worst contaminants in the cardboard/paper recycling process.

When paper products such as cardboard are recycled, they are mixed with water and turned into a slurry.

Because water and oil don’t mix, the implications for cardboard and paper recycling is problematic.

Grease from food contaminated paper products causes oil to form at the top of the slurry, and paper fibers cannot separate from oils during the pulping process. Essentially, the oily contaminant ruins the entire batch of paper fibers. This is also why other food-related items are non-recyclable (such as used paper plates, used napkins, and used paper towels). Oils get into the cardboard fibers and simple cannot be removed.

You might be asking yourself how can ink that’s in paper products be recycled but not grease? The answer is that inks are not petroleum based and can be removed during the recycling process.

Recycling contamination in general is a real problem and contributes to the now high costs of recycling disposal.

Although you may have heard that some communities will accept pizza boxes, Framingham DPW does not for all the reasons previously mentioned, and because our recycling processor considers greasy pizza boxes to be a trash item.

What Should I Do With My Pizza Boxes?

Some people will argue that if you can separate the clean portion of the pizza box (lets say the lid) from the greasy portion of the pizza box you can then recycle the clean part.

This is true so long as there is no grease or food particles are present.

Otherwise dispose of greasy pizza boxes in with your trash.

Stephen Sarnosky
Municipal Recycling Coordinator
City of Framingham | DPW Sanitation Division

Framingham Source Editor Susan Petroni

Susan Petroni Framingham Source Editor Email: Phone: 508-315-7176

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