Sunday, January 23, 2011

What Up With That? Pizza Box Edition

Last week, the greenest person I know (AG) and I discussed what to do with our corrugated bundle of joy after enjoying a tasty pie. I tried to put it out with the recycling, AG insisted that I did not. I had heard that pizza boxes are not "recyclable", but I assumed this was an old wives tale in the same vein as stepping on a crack. Far more versed in recycling codes than I, she insisted that they cannot be recycled and should go out with the regular trash. I remember reading that as long as the box was grease-free, it could be lumped in with paper goods, but sure enough, the wax-paper diaphragm underneath had done nothing to contain the drippings. The box was soiled, and was on a one way train to a landfill incinerator, an unacceptable end for a box which had nobly served its purpose and still had a lot to give.

Science has allowed us to recycle nearly everything these days. Glass and plastic bottles can be thrown into recycling bins still smeared with mayonnaise or peanut butter, and no one blinks an eye. Even paper completely riddled with staples is no problem. Recycling plants use spectroscopic scanners to differentiate between types of plastic and paper by the chemical absorption patterns. Massive magnetic fields create eddy currents to sort and eject "non-ferrous" metals like aluminum cans. Yet the smallest droplet of oil renders a cardboard box completely beyond the grasp of modern science? This is unacceptable, and we'd best start harnessing the untapped power of pizza boxes before the Chinese or the Russians get to it first.

Just imagine the hundred of thousands of pizza boxes that fill dumpsters on college campuses Monday mornings. Tons and tons of paper that could be recycled or at least repurposed. Just as old shoes are used to build basketball courts and running tracks, pizza boxes can find a new lease on life in innumerable ways. We can't wait for those nerds in labcoats to figure this out, we've been waiting for hoverboards decades! Let's roll up our sleeves and do things the American way. Cheap and inefficient. Together we can hire other people to build cardboard treehouses for underprivileged children, cardboard backboards to revitalize abandoned basketball courts. I am envisioning a new society where pizza boxes aren't just a disposable pizza transport material, but the ONLY material. A corrugated world of tomorrow. If a precocious kid can turn a cardboard box into a Transmogrifier, there's no limit to the possibilities. Come join me.

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