Pizza Box Cheat Sheet: A Visual Guide to What You Can and Can’t Recycle

pizza box

You may have heard that if it’s cardboard, it’s always recyclable. Or maybe you’ve heard that pizza boxes just need to be tossed in the trash. What’s the real answer? Well, it turns out that pizza boxes are a little complicated. Use our cheat sheet to find out what to toss and what you can recycle.


Leftover Pizza or Crumbs

Leftover pizza needs to go in the trash. The crumbs do, too! Food — even at crumb level — can ruin batches of paper recycling. Can you imagine little bits of pizza crust living in your roll of paper towels? Ew — no. Just toss them.


Paper Liner & Napkins

Whereas cardboard is sometimes recyclable, the parchment paper liner and napkins are never recyclable. Why is that? Their paper fibers are too short to be turned into anything new.

These guys spell trouble if they accidentally get in your recycling because they’re excellent at soaking up grease. Any amount of grease can ruin a batch of paper recycling by damaging the paper fibers. So make sure all of these grease-soaked paper products get tossed in the trash.


Pizza Savers

You know the little plastic item that appears in takeout and delivery pizza boxes? This little contraption, which looks like a three-legged table, is called a pizza saver. Pizza savers are responsible for your pizza making it home safe and sound, without the melted cheese sticking to the lid of the pizza box. Without them, we’d all be eating ugly pizzas stripped of their cheese and other delicious toppings.

That said, be sure to thank your pizza savers properly and then toss them in the trash. They are too small to be recycled.


A Greasy Box

If grease from the pizza seeps into the box, the cardboard becomes what we call contaminated. Basically, the paper fibers are damaged by the grease and they won’t survive the recycling process. What’s worse, greasy fibers can ruin an entire batch of paper recycling, so they need to be tossed in the trash.

With a greasy box like this, always toss it — at least the bottom half.


A Clean Box — Or a Clean Lid

If the top half of your pizza box has survived its pizza journey in pristine condition, you can cut or tear it off and recycle it.

If by some small miracle the entire box has pulled through with hardly any sign of grease, make sure it’s completely empty, then recycle it.