Editorial – Focus on pizza boxes, not straws

Mac Olsen

How many billions of pizza boxes are manufactured each year throughout the world?

Notoriously, they wind up in landfills and it’s appalling to see this one-off type packaging still in use today. However, plastic straws seem to be a higher priority. It’s been several months since the European Union proposed to ban plastic straws, stirs, balloon sticks and other similar consumer utensils, as a measure to reduce oceanic pollution.

That’s all very well, but I think pizza boxes are a far more urgent issue. Theoretically, pizza boxes cannot be recycled because of food contamination inside the cardboard.

But the City of Calgary has offered some guidance on how to recycle pizza boxes, which includes the pronouncement that if you have a clean pizza box, it can be recycled, as some grease is okay.

Go to www.calgary.ca for more information about this subject.

Nonetheless, I would be leery recycling a pizza box with only “some grease.” The box has still been contaminated having contained hot food, so, I advise against recycling. Alternatively, scientists should work with forestry companies and businesses that sell pizza, to develop a lining for a pizza box that can be easily pulled out, thereby eliminating food contamination and packaging that can be recycled.

Granted, this can add to the price of a pizza because businesses won’t absorb the price but pass it on to the consumer. But if such packaging is viable I suggest they proceed.

In the late 1980s, a big deal was made about the McDonald’s hamburger packaging, known as chlorofluorocarbon (CFC). CFC packaging was identified as destructive to the Ozone layer in earth’s atmosphere so McDonald’s was pressured to abandon its use in favour of cardboard.

But once again, we have another form of consumer packaging that contributes to landfill use, so are we any further ahead 30 years later?

I am glad there are food products where the cardboard can be recycled, e.g. cereal boxes. They are inside other packaging that protects the cardboard from direct contact with the food product.

There are other types of non-recyclable consumer packaging that should be on our radar for recycling or elimination along with plastic straws and pizza boxes such as Styrofoam, which is used for beverage and egg containers, along with shipping packages.

There are also aerosol cans, paint cans, fuel containers and propane tanks, except through special collection methods, and only if they are available as part of your municipal or regional recycling programs. More should be done to increase the rates of their recycling.

It is encouraging to see that many companies are promoting recycling, such as Keurig who produces plastic coffee pods.

Keurig has a promotional campaign on its website, keurig.ca, highlighting how to clean and recycle the pods.

In the end, I agree that plastic straws and other consumer utensils are a landfill and pollution issue. But the higher focus should be on pizza boxes and every effort should be made to design alternative, environmentally friendly packaging.


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