Do Pizza Boxes Go in Compost Piles?

I love pizza. It is reliable, fast, and affordable and gets delivered to your door. Even with all the increased fast-food delivery options, pizza still reigns supreme as the most delivered household meal. All those pizza boxes being delivered all over the States sure can add up to a ton of waste.

Since pizza boxes are usually paper and cardboard, it’s not crazy to think recycling these containers would be the best solution to keep them out of the trash. But some items like dairy cheese and leftovers on greasy pizza boxes mean recycling is a no-go leaving only landfill waste or compostable, biodegradable waste options. 

Can Pizza Boxes Be Composted?

Pizza boxes can be composted and will break down extremely well in normal composting conditions. Both backyard compost piles and business compost collection can be used to take care of these greasy pizza boxes. Some care can be taken to improve the success of getting quality compost without attracting pests or harming soil microorganisms.

Sometimes pizza boxes come with parchment paper and plastic items inside. Pizza boxes made out of unaccepted items for compostable waste will have to be tossed in the trash and not put in the compost heap. Allowable items like paper plates, food scraps, paper towels, wood, and food waste can all be composted with the pizza’s cardboard box. 

What To Do About Grease In Pizza Boxes?

Pizza can be greasy and contain dairy products, food residue, and possibly food-soiled paper. Adding shredded paper like office paper to the compost pile with the cardboard pizza boxes, yard waste, pet waste, and other green food waste can help balance out your compost and speed up the decomposition process.

Another option is to separate the different types of paper products based on if they are plastic items, compostable items, or eligible for the paper recycling process. Plastic items like the little circle in the middle of the pie that keeps the lid from sticking to the hot cheese and plastic utensils and be cleaned and recycled. 

Clean pizza boxes and areas on the box without organic waste can be cut up and recycled as well. Putting these in the blue bins can help reduce the amount of household waste going to landfills. Unaccepted items like food-soiled paper or spoiled food cannot go into the recycling bin and must be composted instead.

Why Can’t Pizza Boxes Be Recycled?

From glossy paper to brown paper, most paper inserts and paper take-out boxes can be recycled. Pizza boxes, on the hand, contain biodegradable waste that can negatively affect cleaning paper fibers during the recycling process. Oil and grease from food and food-soiled paper will end up in the machines handling pizza box scraps.

Do Pizza Boxes Go in Compost Piles

When oil enters the process through a dirty pizza box, it can wreck the entire batch of recycled paper. Like yard waste and used paper coffee filters, pizza box scraps with food belong in the green bin where they can make excellent compost. 

What Are the Benefits of Composting Pizza Boxes?

There are tons of pros to tossing delivery pizza boxes from your favorite pizza restaurant into your green composting cart or backyard compost pile. Clean cardboard can be put in the blue cart, green trash bin, or added to your own compost, all of which have great Earth-helping benefits. 

Reduced Household Waste

From yard waste and extra yard trimmings to animal carcasses, the waste around our household can, in most cases, be composted. As much as possible brown paper, glossy paper, and clean cardboard should be recycled, but when your home compost needs more brown material, pizza boxers can come in handy to supply that need. 

Increased Brown Material

In the winter, getting brown waste for composting material can be difficult. After lawn-and-leaf paper bags have been cleaned up for the season, the only brown compost ingredients left may be indoor paper and cardboard pieces of pizza boxes. In order for the composting process to heat up, plenty of carbon, like pizza boxes, needs to be added to the heap.

Environmentally Friendly Take-Out Choice

A lot of to-go containers are made from styrofoam or plastic and cannot be composted in the same way a pizza box can be. Pizza typically doesn’t make a huge mess on the inside of the box, making it easier to wipe clean and place in the compost pit.

Other containers and types of food make more of a mess inside the containers and have a higher chance of attracting pests to the compost.

Balances Green Materials in Commercial Composting Facility

A lot of the material that ends up going to composting facilities is green waste. People are more likely to remember to put their food scraps into the green bin than they are boxes, paper, and other high-carbon materials. These often end up in the regular trash unless extra care is taken. Regularly adding dirty pizza boxes to the green cart can help add more brown material for city composts. 

Extra Fats for Worms and Microbes

Often composting guidelines say to avoid adding meat, fat, and dairy to backyard compost piles. This is because it can upset soil health and attract unwanted pests. A large amount of cardboard to food residue ratio on the pizza boxes ensures that it will not have any adverse effects on soil life.

Additionally, because variety is important for worms and microbes, the occasional supplement of pizza grease will make your critters extra happy; who doesn’t love a pizza party? 

Pizza Box Decomposition Time Frames

It can take 1 to 3 months for pizza boxes to break down in a compost pile. However, there are several ways to speed up the process if you have a lot of boxes or very little composting space. Depending on whether a pizza box is whole or cut up, wet or dry, and what the composting conditions are, the total amount of time to decompose can vary.

Pizza Box ConditionTime To Break DownReason of Duration
Wet Whole Pizza Box1 month Water helps decompose faster 
Wet Cut-up Pizza Boxless than 1 monthMore surface area on smaller pieces encourages more microbe interactions
Dry Whole Pizza Box 3 monthsDry cardboard is not a good environment for the growth of beneficial bacteria
Dry Cut-up Pizza box1 monthSmaller pieces can be worked deeper in the soil and break down faster

Wetting Pizza Boxes

It can be hard to compost an entire pizza box in a smaller home compost bin. Other materials need to fit in for the process to work. Cutting a pizza box can take a lot of time, and maybe you don’t want to risk making a mess with bits of pizza crust falling all over the place. Adding water to your pizza box can help you save time and space in a compost.

Put the box in your compost bin or on your pile. Soak with a hose or pour water on until the pizza box is sopping wet and falling apart. If you mix the cardboard in now, it will break apart and decompose much faster than dry or just cut-up pizza boxes. Wet boxes shrink and take up far less space allowing you to add other kitchen waste.

Make sure to balance the moisture with dry materials to avoid odors and bad pests. 

Cutting-up Pizza Boxes

A quick way to save space and help your pizza boxes break down faster is to cut them up into little strips. Using scissors or your hands, cut and break the pizza boxes into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces can be worked more easily deep into the pile preventing rodents and pests from finding them.

Tearing up the pizza boxes can also help distribute the fat and grease from the pizza more evenly throughout the compost pile. Too much dairy, fat, or grease in one area can make the worms and microbes sick, but spreading the pizza grease throughout the compost can help reduce that risk.

Mix the dirty pieces of cardboard with other types of brown and green materials to really balance out the compost ingredients and produce high-quality finished soil.