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Improve Recycling with Pizza

June 22nd, 2022 by dk

Have you heard? Lane County once again accepts certain plastics and cardboard for recycling. Of course you’ve heard. You’re a newspaper reader. But have your neighbors heard? Did they notice before, when the limits were put in place? If they don’t read a newspaper, they probably don’t notice the flyers that accompany their trash bill.

Not all plastics are being accepted. This will sound like good news to you, but maybe not to those neighbors — there’s more reading involved. Only plastics labeled No. 1 or No. 2 are allowed. Generally speaking, that means some food containers and many cleaning supplies, but you’ll have to pay attention.

Attention must be paid for two reasons. Haulers won’t keep taking plastics if they can’t be efficiently sorted. Their machines have limitations. No caps from plastic bottles. No lids from cans. Anything smaller than a tennis ball could jam their sorting machines.

We also have to please China. They stopped accepting any plastics when contamination rates rose. We should consider this a test, because that’s exactly what it is.

You will separate the plastics that can avoid the landfill, but can you do more? Yes, you can! Here are two suggestions to make our recycling more sustainable. (Did you see what I did there?)

First, please talk to your neighbors. Don’t question them directly about how they deal with their trash — that would be too intimate. Instead, keep things light and casual. Neighbors will always tolerate small talk, even if it’s about a tall order. 

“Hey, Bob! Did you know that my liquid hand soap and dish detergent are marked No. 1, but my laundry detergent and fabric softener are labeled No. 2? Not that it matters — both 1s and 2s are now allowed in the recycling bins, thank goodness! By the way, your hedge is looking great!”

Here’s an easier one. Make a tiny request of your favorite pizza place. Pizza boxes are once again accepted for recycling, but remember that this is a test. Pizza boxes were previously banned because the pizza grease fouled the cardboard.

Recyclers can tolerate a bit more grease now because cardboard volume has risen dramatically, thanks to Amazon and other convenience shippers. That have given us an opening and we should take it. We know how to keep pizza boxes mostly grease-free for around a penny.

Wax paper pizza box liners cost about that, but many pizzerias don’t use them. For a literal penny, more pizza boxes could remain pristine cardboard throughout their life cycle. We can make that happen. 

If your favorite pizza joint has a comment card, fill one out and make this request. (If they use them already, thank them.) If there’s a survey mentioned on your receipt, do the same. If you’re waiting for your pizza and you see a manager, make the request. Ask your hedge-loving neighbor to do the same. If it becomes a pattern, they will notice.

We don’t need government regulations or Chinese restrictions to deal with our pizza box grease problem. We can handle that one ourselves, if we only try.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Wednesday and Sunday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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