By Stephen Sarnosky
City of Framingham Recycling Coordinator
FRAMINGHAM – Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) communicated to all municipalities that Material Recovery Facilities (MRFs) in the Commonwealth have begun accepting pizza boxes for recycling.
What you say?
In the recent past, pizza boxes were rejected by recycling processors due to their “contamination factor.”
Processors went to great lengths to let people know pizza boxes were unwanted guests in a recycling cart.
According to The American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), which cited a study conducted by U.S. based corrugated packaging company WestRock, “the presence of grease and cheese at levels typically found on pizza boxes does not impact cardboard manufacturing in a negative way.”
Furthermore, pizza boxes are successfully recycled every day at paper mills in the U.S, and that people who are concerned about the grease and grease in the box are now given the green light to recycle those boxes. In a statement from AF&PA President and CEO Heidi Brock
“people should simply remove any leftover pizza and place the box in the recycle bin”.
So what’s really going on here?
Fallout from COVID19 appears to have disrupted the cardboard supply chain, causing a shortage in old cardboard containers (OCC).
OCC is needed as feed stock for new cardboard.
Because so many businesses, especially restaurants, are operating at reduced capacity or closed altogether, cardboard collection has decreased substantially. OCC makes up a substantial percentage of recyclable cardboard in the U.S. and manufactures are desperate to find new sources. Those new sources now include pizza boxes from municipal recycling programs.
We can agree that recycling is the right thing to do for all the obvious reasons. However, COVID19 has created additional recycling costs for cities and towns. Because so many people are setting up shop in their houses, and school-aged children are learning from home, the City
of Framingham has seen a marked increase in its overall refuse and recycling tonnage over the past year.
How should you recycle pizza boxes?
MassDEP’s Recycle Smart gives us guidance on how to recycle pizza boxes.
First, remove any excess pizza including pizza liners and savers. Grease is okay. The food should either be composted or put in the trash. Then, fold the box inside out before you put it in the recycling. This will make sure that the box is completely empty so there are no surprises at the sorting facility. Please refer to the City of Framingham’s Waste Wizard at the Framingham Sanitation website for more details about pizza box recycling.
Stephen Sarnosky is the Recycling Coordinator for the City of Framingham. He has been writing the Framingham Recycles columns for SOURCE media since spring of 2019.