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Posted on: February 7, 2024

Pizza! Pizza! How a High School Student Inspired Recycling Changes in Town

Holly Springs High School Student Impacts Pizza Box Recycling

Holly Springs High School student Grace Bartels spoke at the December Town Council meeting to propose a change in the recycling of pizza boxes and it worked! Up until now, Sonoco, the Town’s recycling provider had been advising residents not to include pizza boxes with recyclables, but now will accept these boxes as long as they aren’t saturated with grease.  

“We have over 45 thousand residents in Holly Springs which means about 1.8 million pizza boxes each year, and in accordance with our Town’s policy they are filling up our landfills instead of being recycled,” said Bartels during the public comment period. “As stewards of our Town I urge you to consider the research and science regarding this box. Let us revisit our Town policy to align with the findings and contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious approach.” 

At the direction of the Town Council, the Public Works Department engaged in a dialogue with Sonoco to explore the idea of including pizza boxes in recyclables. Sonoco agreed that cardboard boxes can be recycled as long as the box is not saturated with grease. As long as the pizza box is less than 20% saturated with grease, it can be recycled.

“Residents who would like to recycle pizza boxes need to make a judgement call before including their pizza box in their recycling cart,” said Freddie Rodriguez, who manages solid waste collection with Holly Springs Public Works. “If your pizza box isn’t full of grease then include it, or if the bottom is full of grease, rip off the top and recycle that part. Small actions can make a big difference towards a sustainable future for all.” 

For recyclable material to have a second life, it must be clean and free from contaminants. Food waste, commonly found on take-out containers, greasy pizza boxes and bottles/jars that have not been rinsed, is the most prevalent contaminate. It is important for Holly Springs residents to note that if they do include grease saturated pizza boxes in their recycling cart, the entire contents of the recycling cart are considered contaminated making it all unusable, per Sonoco’s recycling guidelines.

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