Most pizza lovers stocking up for football’s championship game know their leftover boxes can be recycled but an alarming 40% say they don’t always do so. That’s the main finding of a national survey by sustainable packaging leader DS Smith, which said pizza boxes are indeed 100% recyclable. Pizza boxes can be easily recycled providing any crumbs and cheese are removed before they go into recyclable trash.

With 12.5 million pizzas expected to be sold on Sunday, Feb. 12, that’s almost enough material from 12-inch by 12-inch boxes to stretch from the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia to the Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City…and back. In the run-up to the NFL’s Big Game between those two teams, DS Smith is calling on all fans to properly dispose of their boxes.

“We are driven to make changes both big and small in how the packaging industry operates to contribute to a more sustainable future,” said DS Smith’s Melanie Galloway, vice president, sales, marketing and innovation. “Part of that mission includes educating consumers on what they can do to be part of the solution too, even something as simple as being sure to recycle your pizza boxes.”

The company survey, taken Jan. 27-30, found that two-thirds (67%) of adults believe pizza boxes are recyclable – ranking fifth among a list of popular items. Leading the way is plastic water bottles, with 88% of respondents saying they can be recycled. Next came newspapers or magazines (82%) and glass jars and milk cartons (both at 75%).

Even with high recognition among consumers that pizza containers should go into recyclable trash, three of five adults say they don’t always do so – with 19% saying they never do, 11% only sometimes and 10% rarely. Still, a majority of those surveyed – 60% – respond that they recycle, with 43% saying they always do so and 17% saying most of the time.

DS Smith wants all consumers to know that pizza boxes can be recycled – important because any increase in recycling contributes to a circular economy designed to replace problem plastics, take carbon out of supply chains and prove innovative recycling solutions. Recovered fibers can be reused as many as 10 times by paper and packaging companies to make new boxes, diverting waste from landfills and incinerators and toward local recycling facilities.

For its part, DS Smith produces a recyclable pizza pad, an insert under the pies used in boxes by major, nationally acclaimed pizza brands. The packaging company sells millions of the pads each year, recording a burst in production amid the frenzy of the football season’s final weeks. The customizable, 100% recyclable pad is flat on one side, facing the bottom of the box, and wavy on the top, keeping the pizza crust crisp and dry. That so-called fluting also helps hold the temperature in the box during deliveries, DS Smith said.

The DS Smith product marks an example of the company’s renewable, fiber-based packaging solutions for hundreds of thousands of products for both traditional and e-commerce retailers, covering wine boxes and ready-meal trays to cardboard coolers and fresh fruit trays.  It marks just one of many ways that DS Smith uses innovation and imagination to create sustainable packaging solutions that support the transition to a circular economy that aims to reduce and eliminate waste and advocates for the reuse of materials.

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Survey methodology
The poll was taken Jan. 27-30 with 1,221 respondents, a total that generally has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It was conducted using an online data collection methodology with the research firm Dynata.