Recycling 101: First Up, the Pizza Box

Steve Davies

By Steve Davies,
Healthy Planet Columnist

So now that I’ve introduced myself and my passion for recycling, I then started to ask myself, what’s next? My first thought was to wait and see if someone asks me a question. Unfortunately, as time was of the essence and the fact that there were none, I headed in a different direction.

I thought maybe instead I should pick one of the items I mentioned last time like pizza boxes, plastic bags or aluminum containers. Well, as I was unsure about what to tackle first and knowing that I had ongoing conversations on all of those topics, this led me to visit some of our local city websites.

Needless to say, each one is different. What’s also different are the answers you’ll find. Before diving into some of the individual websites however, I decided to start off by contacting departments via e-mail as I didn’t know exactly whom to contact.

Since I live in the city of Kirkwood, I thought I would start by contacting them first. What I found out however, was that what the website says and some of the individuals at city hall say isn’t always the same thing. This in turn, led me back to where I started, pizza boxes.

When I first asked them about pizza boxes, I was told:

Kirkwood does not recycle pizza boxes because they cause contamination in single stream recycling due to the oil and grease that permeates the boxes. Contamination in our recycling has the potential to damage sorting machinery and cause contamination of other recyclables that are in good condition. Some residents will separate the top and bottom of their pizza boxes and place the greasy bottom in the trash and place the clean top in the recycling. That is totally ok, but we do not advertise it.

If you read their website however, it gives two descriptions:

Pizza Box (Greasy) – Put this item in your black trash cart

Pizza Box (Empty with no food residue) – Recycling

If that’s not confusing enough, if you order pizza from let’s say Domino’s Pizza in Kirkwood, the boxes say “Do Your Slice: Recycle this Pizza Box”. Now if you want to throw fuel on that fire, the city of St. Louis says on their website:

If the grease spot is smaller than the palm of your hand, recycle the entire box.

So as this conversation continues on with the city of Kirkwood and while the answer remains unclear, perhaps I’ll just move on to what many of us consume even more, the plastic bags. With the conversation I’ve had so far with East-West Gateway Council of Governments however and not exactly who I thought I would be conversing with, that answer remains to be seen. Of course, if we all just used reusable bags and preferably cloth bags, the answer would become clear very quickly.