A survey conducted by DS Smith has suggested that 40% of consumers do not recycle their pizza boxes at end of life, leading the company to call for their appropriate disposal.

The survey consulted 1,221 respondents in the USA between 27th and 30th January 2023 using an online data collection methodology in collaboration with Dynata. The total reportedly has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

According to its results, general recycling behaviour is high, with 43% of participants recycling all the time and 17% doing so at most given opportunities. Regarding pizza boxes in particular, 67% of adults believe them to be a recyclable form of packaging, leading them to rank fifth beneath water bottles at 88%, newspapers or magazines at 82%, and both glass jars and milk cartons at 75%.

Even so, 11% claimed to only recycle their pizza boxes sometimes, 10% rarely, and 19% stated that they never do. This result came in the lead-up to the NFL’s Big Game on 12th February, for which occasion 12.5 million pizzas were expected to be sold; this would apparently generate enough material in 12-inch by 12-inch boxes to be spread between the Philadelphia Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field and the rivalling Kansas City Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium and back – a total of around 2,314 miles.

As such, DS Smith is encouraging consumers to dispose of their pizza boxes appropriately, maintaining that they are 100% recyclable once any leftover food has been removed. Ensuring that they enter recycling waste streams is a way in which consumers can contribute to the phasing out of problem plastics as well as decarbonisation efforts and the success of recycling solutions, the company states.

It also maintains that the recovered fibres from materials such as the recycled boxes can be reused up to ten times by paper and packaging companies, meaning that waste can be diverted away from landfill and towards local recycling facilities.

“We are driven to make changes both big and small in how the packaging industry operates to contribute to a more sustainable future,” said Melanie Galloway, vice president of 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.”

DS Smith suggests that solutions such as its own pizza pad can serve as an appropriate solution. It features fluting, or a wavy texture, on one side of the pad, designed to keep the pizza crust crisp and dry and maintain the temperature within the pizza box during deliveries. Meanwhile, it is reported to be 100% recyclable, and has apparently been implemented by various major pizza brands.

Previous research projects saw DS Smith identify junk mail, food trays, and pulp fruit trays as the top three most disruptive forms of packaging for current paper recycling streams, and estimate that €3.7 billion could have been spent on returns last Christmas as a result of products being damaged in transit.

RECOUP also reported that 750,000 tonnes of household plastics are not recycled in the UK, leading the company to call for changes in legislation in order to correct the oversight.