Are Pizza Boxes Recyclable? Easy Ways to Recycle or Compost Them

Group of people eating pizzas from boxes

There are so many ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle, whether it’s learning how to compost at home or investing in eco-friendly appliances. One of the easiest things you can do, however, is learn how to dispose of things like pizza boxes. Did you know that approximately 3 billion pizza boxes are sold annually in the US alone? Unfortunately, many people don’t know how to get rid of these boxes in an eco-friendly manner. That’s why we’re here to help!

You may be wondering, are these boxes recyclable? How should you recycle them? Are dirty ones recyclable? In our helpful guide below, we’ll answer all these questions and more, including:

Let’s not get into all those details just yet. First, we need to answer the most important question of them all…

Can you recycle pizza boxes?

A full pepperoni pizza in a large box

Yes, you can recycle pizza boxes. They’re typically made of cardboard, which can be recycled many times over. You can recycle these boxes curbside or by dropping them off at your local recycling facility. Please note that all pizza residue must be removed from the box before it can be properly recycled.

Though the majority are recyclable, there are some that you’ll need to put in the trash or compost. To dispose of your items in an eco-friendly way, you’ll need to know how to determine what boxes can be recycled and which can’t. If you intend on relying on city facilities, you’ll also have to figure out which facilities accept what item. 

Why some pizza boxes can’t be recycled

There are two reasons why a pizza box may not be recyclable. The first is if there is melted cheese or other residue stuck to the lid. Residue, in this case, doesn’t refer to tiny food particles. It’s bits of cheese and toppings that can contaminate the other recyclable materials in your container. The same is true if the bottom half is especially greasy. Though a pizza saver (the white plastic object) can stop the cheese from sticking to the box, the grease is harder to prevent.

Unfortunately, many people have thrown these items into their recycling bin for years without giving it much thought. This is the result of aspirational recycling, which essentially means recycling something because it feels like it should be recyclable. This have resulted in very negative consequences. The reason? Any item covered in oil and food residue can completely ruin an entire batch of recycling and create issues during the pulping process. It may even turn rancid or attract animals. Thankfully, there are ways to avoid contaminating clean materials and recycle used boxes properly.

How to properly recycle used pizza boxes

If you want to safely dispose of greasy pizza boxes, you have a few options to choose from. The simplest method is to rip off the greasy parts, throw them in the trash, and put the rest of it into recycling. In some cases, you may only be able to recycle the top half and not the bottom half.

There are also some recycling facilities and paper mills that accept pizza boxes with small amounts of grease, though you should call ahead to be sure. If your box has more than a little grease on it, however, you’ll need to find an alternative method to recycling. The most convenient and sustainable option, in this case, is composting. 



Are cardboard pizza boxes compostable?

A close up of a tall stack of cardboard that is folded flat

Both regular flat and corrugated cardboard pizza boxes are compostable. Composting is ideal for greasy ones in particular. If you can’t wash the surface and remove food scraps, oil, and grease, it should not be sent to recycling centers. It could create issues in the paper recycling process.

You don’t need to be an expert composter to compost your greasy pizza boxes. If you’re not sure how to get started, we’re happy to provide several beginner-friendly composting methods



5 ways to compost dirty pizza boxes

Does your pizza tend to leave behind lots of oily patches? If so, recycling may not always be an option. The good news is you can compost them with relatively little effort, even if they’re covered with grease, cheese, and or other food. Here are a few composting methods to get you started:

1. Electric composting

A lomi kitchen composter on a white countertop

Electric composters offer an effective way to dispose of boxes, including those covered in cheese and grease. The best of the best is Lomi, which can efficiently break down organic waste, Lomi approved bioplastics, and Lomi’s own compostable packaging. Before inserting any non-food item, however, you should always double-check to ensure that the product is Lomi approved.

Pro tip: To use this kitchen composter to its full potential, check out this blog listing what can or can’t go into your Lomi.

Lomi by Pela



Lomi allows you to turn food waste into plant-ready nutrients in under 24 hours. Boost your plants while reducing your waste.


2. Leave in the green bin

Someone putting a closed trash bag in a large green container

Many local recycling programs offer the option of a green bin, which is one of the easiest composting methods there is. You can use a green container to throw away biodegradable or compostable items. A wide variety of organic materials can be put into a green container. That said, you should check with local rules and regulations ahead of time to be sure.

The great thing about this alternative is that it ensures that your items are composted and diverted away from landfills. A major component of living a greener lifestyle is reducing the amount of waste you add to your city landfill. The reason for this is that landfills can generate greenhouse gasses, which contribute considerably to global warming. The less we contribute to these toxic dumps, the better shape our planet will be in.

Pro tip: Struggling to fit your box into your green container? You may need to cut it up into a few pieces so it doesn’t take up too much space. 



3. Add to worm composter

A small gray indoor worm composter for vermicomposting

If you own a vermicomposter of some sort, you can compost and repurpose your dirty box at the same time. All you have to do is rip it up and add it as bedding for your compost. The grease and/or food residue won’t negatively affect your worms or the quality of your compost. This is an excellent way to turn something viewed as garbage into a useful and eco-friendly resource.

Curious about vermicomposting? If you’re looking for an efficient, odor-free, and long-term composting method, vermicomposting could be for you. This process uses worms, usually red wigglers, to break down organic items and create nutrient-rich dirt. You can then use this dirt in your garden to help nourish your plants!

Pro tip: Worms don’t like empty space, so be generous when lying down your ripped-up scraps! Other items you can use for bedding include shredded paper, peat moss, and straw.

4. Backyard compost pile

A pile of compost in a black receptacle outdoors

A backyard compost pile is a great alternative to paper recycling, which isn’t suitable for greasy cardboard. If you already have a compost pile outside, simply add your greasy pizza box to the pile. From there, taking care of your backyard pile is really quite easy. All you have to do is go out and turn the compost pile with a pitchfork or shovel once or twice a week. This helps increase the temperature of the pile and allows oxygen to be spread more evenly.

If you don’t already have a backyard compost pile, you should consider starting one. Once you know what to compost, you can sustainably dispose of all kinds of materials. Of course, not everyone has a backyard or the time to maintain a compost pile. If this is the case for you, 

There are many different types of compost bins you could buy instead.

Pro tip: Even if there are no greasy parts, you should still rip your box apart before leaving it in the pile. This will help it break down faster.

5. Tumbling composter

A woman dumping a bucket into a tumbling composter

A tumbling composter, or compost tumbler, is a large device used outdoors to break down organic materials. You can insert all kinds of waste into a tumbling composter, though it’s important to maintain a proper balance of green and brown components. Shredded cardboard is considered a brown component, as it’s generally dry and high in carbon.

Once you’ve added these components to your tumbler, you can use its crank to turn the pile a few times a week. This helps to control odor and allows oxygen to be evenly distributed throughout the pile. It’s important to note that you should avoid inserting just any type of cardboard into your tumbling composter. Ideally, you’ll be adding the untreated kind that’s unprinted, uncolored, and uncoated. There are some boxes like this, along with egg cartons and other types of packaging.

Pro tip: Try to maintain a ratio of 3-4 parts browns to 1 part greens. The proper ratio of browns and greens can help your compost pile heat up and prevent foul odors. 



Recycling vs composting: what should you do with your pizza box?

Recycling and composting are both valid ways of disposing of this item. Recycled cardboard  can be turned into so many things, including paper towels, paperboard, tissues, writing paper, and more. That said, recycling is only an option if your box is oil-free, grease-free, and doesn’t have any melted cheese stuck to it. In this case, you can easily take it to a recycling facility or put it in your recycling.

Composting, however, is a fantastic way to dispose of a greasy pizza box. By taking this route, whether you opt for a backyard pile or a smart composter, you can get rid of the box and enjoy the many benefits of composting. If you have little to no experience with composting - don’t worry. We have plenty of informative guides to help you learn how to make compost, what to compost, and much more.

Whether you choose to recycle or compost, you’re making a choice that’s better for our planet. Recycled materials like boxes and bottles can be used over and over again, reducing the number of items sent into dumps. Of course, there are so many other things out there you can start composting and recycling. Once you’ve read through our guide to composting cardboard, you can begin looking through our other informative blogs. With our help, you can properly dispose of wrapping paper, bubble wrap, styrofoam, and other items in an eco-friendly way!

Written by: E Sawden