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Domino's teams with WestRock to encourage more recycling of pizza boxes

With more people ordering pizza the last few months, the boxes they come in tend to pile up -- and so does the dilemma of whether to recycle or trash them.

It's the grease from the cheese or meat toppings that is at issue, and Ann Arbor Township-based Domino's Pizza Inc. says a little bit on the box is OK.

In an effort to encourage more recycling, Domino's and its primary box supplier, WestRock, have launched recycling.dominos.com to encourage and educate pizza lovers about their recyclables. Domino's worked with WestRock earlier this year to increase the recycled content in its pizza boxes from 40 percent to 72 percent and says they are designed for at least seven recycling cycles.

"Because nearly everything that leaves a Domino's store leaves in a corrugated box, we know we have an opportunity to make a difference when it comes to packaging and recycling," Tim McIntyre, Domino's executive vice president of communications, said in a news release. "Our goal is that our customers will set aside any misconceptions they have around the recyclability of pizza boxes, read the facts and put their empty box in the recycling bin -- or call their municipality and ask them to add pizza boxes to their collection."

A recent study commissioned by WestRock found 73 percent of the population can access a recycling program for pizza boxes. But if you haven't been recycling your boxes, don't feel bad. According to the Resource Recycling Systems access study, while 27 percent of the population is served by programs with explicit acceptance of pizza boxes, 46 percent have access to programs that imply, but don't say specifically, that they accept pizza boxes. The confusion comes from views from some paper mills and the recycling industry that the boxes may be contaminated.

With Domino's being the largest pizza company in the world based on retail sales and with a global enterprise of more than 17,100 stores in more 90 markets, the company's push to recycle more boxes could have a noticeable impact. The U.S. alone uses approximately 3 billion pizza boxes yearly, representing approximately 600,000 tons of corrugated material that could be recycled, according to Domino's recycling website.

With the COVID-19 pandemic shifting the way many Americans eat, including an increase of delivery and takeout orders, the use of food packaging has also been on the rise.

GFL Environmental USA Inc., a leading waste management company, said it has not seen a general willingness from paper mills to accept material contaminated with food particles.

"Unfortunately, most pizza boxes become contaminated after use, rendering them undesirable to paper mills and, therefore, not recyclable," said Joseph Munem, director of government affairs for GFL.


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