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Domino’s ‘Recyclable’ Pizza Boxes

Why you may find it hard to "do your slice."

Ad Alert

Domino’s ‘Recyclable’ Pizza Boxes

On the front of its cardboard pizza boxes, Domino’s tells customers to “do your slice” and “recycle this pizza box.”

But many consumers may find that hard to do.

That’s because, as Domino’s puts it on a website promoting its recycling campaign (which is accessible by scanning the QR code in top left corner of the box):

Although empty corrugated pizza boxes are technically recyclable, many programs do not accept them yet or the local guidelines are not clear.

In other words, while Domino’s empty pizza boxes can be recycled, that doesn’t mean they will be recycled. And that matters because, as noted in a complaint filed with the FTC last September over the deceptive marketing of toothpaste tubes as “recyclable,” a majority of consumers believe that “recyclable” means that a product will be recycled most of the time.

In addition, according to the FTC’s Green Guides, which are designed to help marketers avoid making misleading environmental claims, products should not be marketed as recyclable unless they:

can be collected, separated, or otherwise recovered from the waste stream through an established recycling program for reuse or use in manufacturing or assembling another item.

The guides go on to state that brands should only make unqualified recyclability claims – such as Domino’s telling consumers to “recycle this pizza box” – “[w]hen recycling facilities are available to a substantial majority of consumers or communities where the item is sold,” which means 60 percent according to the FTC.

Go deeper

Several sources that say pizza boxes are recyclable cite the same industry study that Domino’s references on its website (and that was conducted by the pizza company’s primary box supplier), which found that grease and cheese residue in amounts typically found on pizza boxes does not prevent them from being recycled.

However, the country’s largest waste management companies have something different to say.

Waste Management, Inc., the largest waste management company in the U.S. by revenue, operating more than one-quarter of the materials recovery facilities (or MRFs, i.e., the facilities that actually receive, separate and prepare recyclable materials for end-users) in the country, tells consumers on its website that:

Cardboard pizza delivery boxes without leftovers or liners should be recycled; but leftover crusts, cheese and other food should not.

Republic Services, the second largest waste management company in the U.S., operating approximately one-third of the MRFs in the country, says the following on its website:

If the [pizza] box is greasy, cheesy and has stuck on food bits, it shouldn’t go in the recycling bin. The box is no longer recyclable, but even worse, that grease can contaminate the other objects in the recycling bin and make it all unusable.

And Waste Connections, the third largest waste management company in the U.S., tells consumers to stick greasy pizza boxes in the trash.

So are pizza boxes actually getting recycled when you toss them in the bin? No, not typically. But if you’re feeling disheartened, you can do what Republic Services suggests – “rip off the clean part of the box for recycling while throwing the rest away.” reached out to Domino’s for comment. Check back for updates.

Find more of our coverage on greenwashing (aka when a company makes something sound better for the environment than it actually is) here.

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