Super Bowl LVII is fast approaching. As excited as people are for the showdown between the Chiefs and the Eagles and the surely incredible halftime show performance by Rihanna, one thing no one on earth is excited for is the postgame cleanup.
The National Chicken Council has already predicted 1.45 billion wings will be consumed this Super Bowl Sunday (February 12), but platters of discarded chicken bones won’t be the only thing filling up America’s trash bags. Foodsided reported in 2021 that Pizza Hut sold more than 1.4 million pizzas during Super Bowl LV. It’s safe to say that next weekend will likely rack up similarly impressive figures of pizza consumption—so where does all that cardboard go?
As we’ve noted before, one of the biggest flaws in the design of pizza’s mode of transportation, the cardboard box, is that recycling it can be a challenge. Some sources say that grease-stained boxes are unable to be recycled by most facilities because the oil can leach out onto other papers, rendering them unusable. However, other sources have countered this by citing a study from West Rock, a packaging supplier for Domino’s and other major brands. West Rock found that even the greasiest of boxes were able to be recycled by most facilities without compromising the strength of the materials.
In an effort to further debunk the notion that pizza boxes are difficult to recycle, The Paper and Packaging Board conducted an analysis of over 7,500 recycling program guidelines in the U.S. to determine which areas accept pizza boxes for recycling and make it easiest for residents to recycle them.
“Although a majority of communities accept corrugated pizza boxes for recycling, there’s been a lot of consumer confusion,” explained Mary Anne Hansan, president of The Paper and Packaging Board, in a press release sent to The Takeout. “This massive pizza eating occasion is a great time to clarify that pizza boxes are made to be recycled, but you should check your local guidelines to see if they take them.”
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A 2021 survey from the board also found that only 57% of people in the U.S. even realize that they can recycle their pizza boxes, yet this most recent analysis found that there are 10 states (and the District of Columbia) in which at least 90% of residents can recycle their pizza boxes. These are the top 10 states where pizza box recycling is, in theory, easiest to do:
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New York
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
Hansan added that a number of factors, including inconsistencies regarding implementation of local recycling programs and state policies, have an effect on the relative ease of recycling these boxes in some places versus others. Above all, it’s important to check your local guidelines.
“We know that paper mills across the country are using recycled pizza boxes, even ones with grease stains and a little stuck on cheese, to make the products that we use and rely on every day,” said Hansan.
This Super Bowl Sunday, after the confetti falls on the winners and the slices are all gone, don’t forget to empty, flatten, and recycle those pizza boxes.