The Big Problem Some Costco Fans Have With Its Recycling Initiative

Discount warehouse club Costco may be known for its incredibly low prices and bulk items, but it also has a really popular food court that many shoppers make a point of stopping at after every Costco run, to take advantage of the $1.50 hot dog and soda combos and a variety of other snacks, including pizza. According to Business Insider, Costco is becoming one of the most popular pizza chains in the country, and is in fact the 14th largest pizza chain, with nearly 500 locations nationwide. That's a lot of pizza sold, and also a lot of pizza boxes that get tossed in the trash. So it was welcome news when Costco announced a new recycling initiative in a recent Facebook post.

"Dropping by the Food Court soon? The pizza box now has the How2Recycle label. Skip the trash can and choose the recycling bin for your cardboard pizza boxes," says the post, with a link to learn more about Costco's sustainability efforts and commitment. Sounds great, right? The only problem, as many Costco shoppers and fans pointed out in the comment section, is that it might not actually work.

Food stains may cause problems for recycling

As the comments to the post pointed out, there's an issue with recycling cardboard that has been stained with food. "How do you keep the cheese, sauce, grease, and toppings from getting on the cardboard? Cardboard with food particles and grease on it can't be recycled," writes one fan, with several others concurring. In response, Costco pointed to a recent scientific study that showed that pizza boxes are recyclable, even when contaminated with grease and some cheese (via Earth 911).

The problem, as many other commenters pointed out, is that many local regulations prohibit recycling of pizza boxes. "Our waste company fines us for putting pizza boxes in the recycling!" writes one fan. According to a 2019 study by West Rock, only 27% of the U.S. population have recycling programs that explicitly accept pizza boxes, while 11% explicitly prohibit. However, an additional 46% of the population have access to programs that implicitly accept pizza boxes, which seem to indicate that education about the recycling of pizza boxes is the problem. In that case, Costco's post may be a good first step in educating the public. To really get fan's attention though, Costco should bring back the combo pizza, which many of the commenters on the post asked for, and then mention the recycling.