Well-engineered pizza box keeps grease out of the cardboard for easier recycling

Scott from Scott's Pizza Tours is obsessed with pizza box engineering, and posts YouTube videos about the pizza boxes people send him from all over the world. In this installment, he explores a fantastic box from Eataly that is coated with a recyclable, reflective finish that keeps the food hot and prevents the grease from getting on the cardboard. Pizza boxes with grease on them can't be recycled (and they really screw up the recycling system if they slip through!), so this is a major breakthrough.

Scott Presents: The Greatest Pizza Box On Earth (via JWZ)


    1. From the YouTube description he writes: “People send me pizza boxes from all over the world, but I may have found the best one this week in NYC (although it is made in Italy).”

  1. According to this Reddit post, grease is not such a big problem with pizza box recycling because they wash all the fibers and compost the ones that can’t be cleaned: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/j3si6/pizza_boxes_arent_really_recyclable_shouldnt/

    “I work at a paper mill that handles a significant amount of recycled
    material. Having said that, I feel qualified to tell you to recycle
    your damn pizza boxes. You’re not going to break the mill with greasy
    boxes. In large enough quantities (like whole bales), greasy cardboard
    will screw up our consistencies, but we’d pace it out a little better
    than that. I’m not very involved in the stock prep process, but I’m
    guessing that some of the fiber will have been ruined by the grease, so
    that’ll get kicked out somewhere along the line and end up on some
    farmer’s field as fertilizer, but most of the fiber will still be good.

    I think y’all are overestimating how much mills trust their
    suppliers. We don’t take it on faith that the paper we’re getting is
    clean. If we did, we couldn’t run the machine for two minutes straight
    before it got jammed up. No, every fiber gets cleaned extensively
    before it gets made into paper again.”

    1. Our recycling program will take them out and place them in the garbage for you, or just leave them in the recycling bin….

      Of course they do the same for styrofoam.

    2. Beyond which, if grease on a pizza box in the bundle of cardboard is such a recycling no-no, how come it’s such a well-kept secret? I’ve never heard of this in my life (until now).

      1. It’s not really a secret.  The pamphlets from the waste management company always say to keep pizza boxes (and in general, any paper contaminated with food waste) out of the recycling bins.
        Do you actually read the informational flyers that the waste management company mails to you?  All your secrets may be revealed within.

        1. Do you actually read the informational flyers that the waste management company mails to you?

          Yes, in fact, I do read everything about local recycling, which is what surprised me so much. And not only do the flyers not mention grease or foods when referring to paper/cardboard recycling, but they specifically say not to put any paper or cardboard in with the compost.

  2. This sounds like a misleading claim from the box manufacturer. Polyester and cardboard are both easily recycled, but not once they’re bonded into a composite material. While ordinary paper fiber can be broken down and rebuilt several times before it wears out, once it’s contaminated with plastic it usually only fit for downcycling into tissue paper.

    1. “This sounds like a misleading claim from the box manufacturer. Polyester
      and cardboard are both easily recycled, but not once they’re bonded
      into a composite material.”

      No they are not less recyclable as a composite material. You got to have the right equipment, but they are not harder or more expensive to recycle as a composite material, then used separately, but polyester isn’t good for recycling anyway.

      Here in Sweden we use cartons made of paperboard with a thin layer of polythene plastic inside  for almost all food liquids, more then 98% of the cartons are recycled and  only a small fraction of those have to be discarded because of old age or pollutants, it really isnt any problem to seperate the two materials.

      Polyester isn’t good for recycling as it is as it ages fast and is totally worthless after just 2-3 (re)cycles.

      Cardboard isn’t paper (at least it isn’t called paper in any papermill, cardboard or paper plant inside Sweden and,  as a country, we are the second largest producer(*) in the world of the stuff and the largest exporter, so if we claim it isn’t paper, it isn’t ;-). It is made of really low quality cellulose, in Northern Europe it is made from fibres that have been recycles several times (I think it is something like 40-60 times, cellulose age when it is recycled too). It isn’t a very valuable commodity. If it has to be transported over large distances to get recycled it is much better to use as a fuel, but it contains a lot of sand and solids  (on purpose, it makes it hardier) and is contamited by yet other solids (because it is at the end of the recycle chain), so it produces a lot of ash when burned, this can be a problem if the power plants lack the right equipment. Observe that writing and  magazine paper (and  higher quality  print paper) used in Sweden is made of more gypsum then cellulose fibre (to avoid bleaching and use of other nasty chemicals and to make recycling of cellulose more efficient, it gets weakened when bleached), so our powerplants have to be able handle a lot of ash anyway and most of the raw materials in the ash is recycled.

      Grease can be a logistics problem because it can cause bad smells and it makes cellulose fibre age faster  (but that is only a problem if it the cardboard have to be stored a long time before it gets recycled, but then you are doing it wrong, cardboard fibre age even without grease).

      (*) I just discovered that English doesnt ditinguishe between corrugated fibreboard (wellpapp in Swedish) and other cardboard (papp, but that is not paper either (paper is called papper in Swedish)), although we produce some other cardboard, we can’t claim to be the worlds second largest producer of any other cardboard then corrugated fibreboard. I got confused because all the pizza cartoons was all made of corrugated fibreboard (sidonote, in Sweden we mostly we use “papp” for pizza cartons, not corrugated fibreboard, it is strong enough for pizzas and more lightweight, hence more environmental friendly to transport).

      1. I love your post, and your strangely detailed knowledge of the Swedish cardboard industry, but can you explain more clearly what “papp” is as opposed to “wellpapp”? It’s just non-corrugated wellpapp? I tried a few google searches but couldn’t come up with anything.

        1. Not 100% sure, but I’m guessing that the “papp” he’s talking about is more like what you picture as coming with new men’s shirts or wrapped around a Kellogg’s cereal product. If seen boxes like that used for pizzas in Switzerland, too. The “wellpapp” is the corrugated cardboard you know from having Amazon send you books or seeing stockboys opening up 24-ct packages (wellpapp) of Rice Krispies boxes (papp).

          Also agree regarding Martin’s helpful post.

      2. Here in Sweden we use cartons made of paperboard with a thin layer of polythene plastic inside  for almost all food liquids

        I guess you’re talking about Tetra Pak? At least that’s what milk comes in here.
        Tetra Pak’s ubiquitous “Tetra Brik” packaging actually consists of the following layers (starting from the inside):


        Even according to Tetra Pak’s own advertising materials, the best they can do in terms of recycling is shred it, soak it in water an try to separate the paper from the resulting sludge. Which still leaves a lot of plastic and aluminum that can’t really be recovered in a cost-efficient manner.

        Anyway, I have yet to be convinced that the recycling process pays off environmentally if you consider its energy consumption.

    1. Yes. Along with napkins, paper plates, some cups, etc. That said, if you make your own and eat it off a plate, there’s no box, no paper plate and no gas consumed racing it to your house.

    2. My first thought when I saw this article was to wonder why people don’t just put pizza boxes in their compost or yard waste.  I thought yard waste pickup was more widespread than just our little corner of Ecotopia where our local waste management company specifically added food-stained paper and cardboard to the list of allowable items for yard waste.  It may also be the difference between densely urban areas and areas with less population density.

  3. I find his excitement for pizza boxes adorable!
    From the description on YouTube: “People send me pizza boxes from all over the world, but I may have found the best one this week in NYC (although it is made in Italy).”

  4. Yes, importing pizza boxes from ITALY to NYC would seem to be much more environmentally friendly.

  5. Yes, because it would be impossible to make them here. Oh, wait. No it wouldn’t. I suppose you think that Pizza Hut pizza box was shipped over from the US.

  6. Shenanigans

    I assert (with no basis) that it would be far better for the environment to incinerate the greasy paper box (and extract the energy) than to manufacture the composite box, clean it, then deconstruct and recycle it. Hell, it’d probably be better to just landfill the paper box.

    I also call shenanigans on the claim that the composite box is recyclable. 

    1. OMG! Someone who _understands_ that recycling is not a priori ‘good’ for the environment, and is in most cases just a waste of state and individual resources!!

  7. While I have never, ever, wondered about the science of pizza boxes before, I found this pretty entertaining. 

  8. wow. i think this show fills the time slot between “Wheel of Fish” and “Conan the Librarian” on channel 62.

  9. You can always stick greasy pizza boxes in your compost pile.  I already put about half of my paper (newspapers, junk mail, etc…) in there.  The bacteria, funguses and whatever else is breaking down everything don’t really care about a little grease.

  10. There’s also the factor that I LIKE the pizza box to absorb some of that extra grease. The box is doing a service that the metallic one won’t.  Still, his enthusiasm wins.

  11. Even if you can’t recycle a greasy pizza box, you can compost it – at least you can compost the standard cardboard types.

  12. I work in a pizza box factory.  We make many of the pizza boxes you can find in the USA including nearly every major pizza company here in the US.  I can tell you that the box he’s showing you probably cost quite a bit more (over double) what a standard pizza box cost.  I can also tell you that some of the pizza boxes in the USA use grease resistant coating on the inside paper. It still looks like regular paper but it’s not.

  13. In many towns, including the one I live in, you can turn your pizza boxes in for composting instead of recycling.   I am skeptical that any kind of substantial volume of pizza boxes could be composted in a home compost pile, because they aren’t hot enough, but it’s certainly no problem to compost them in commercial composters, which run a lot hotter.

  14. That guy loves his pizza paraphernalia! If you didn’t speak English, you’d think he’d just discovered alien life.

    “As of right now. As of this moment. We’re saved!”

  15. seems like a bit of aluminum foil between the pizza and box would do just as well…?

  16. My city has a composting program, and they have instructed us to throw pizza boxes, and all other food soiled boxes and paper in the compost bin.  The major problem is that the pizza boxes have to be cut up in order to fit in the compost bin.

  17. Presumably Scott is familiar with the previously boinged boxes of NZ pizza chain Hell Pizza? http://happysmurfday.livejournal.com/256674.html

  18. I had to watch this awful video just to see what the fuss was about..
    1 -This box is made by an Italian packaging company http://www.ipacketrade.com/
    2 – The box is used by Eataly, A Mario Batali marketplace/restaurant in New York.
    3 – The coating is a laminated, metallized film http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallised_film
    basically, a Dorito bag or Mylar balloon bonded to the inside. It doesn’t seem all that recylable to me, just a super-deluxe food box
     can’t read Italian, does it say that this material is recyclable?

  19. Oldham council in the UK now allows you to recycle greasy pizza boxes.
    The problem with the foiled back one will it’ll be a longer recycling process than just cardboard.
    And you’ve not dirtied some kitchen roll too!

    Mmm pizza. Now I want pizza for lunch!

    My son told me the cardboard in a normal pizza box is great for putting slices of leftover pizza in the microwave on, and that you turn the pizza slice upside down on it for half the re-heating time.
    He also wondered why they advertise olives on pizza boxes as most people he knows don’t like olives on pizza.

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