New York City Consumes So Much Pizza That It Had To Come up With a Special Container Just for the Boxes

The Central Park Conservancy shared that in just one picnic area, it collects more than 100 pizza boxes a day.

special pizza box recycling bin in new york
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Complex problems sometimes require imaginative solutions. One example of this is New York City—a gigantic city with an even more gigantic love for fast food— where authorities have been pondering what to do with all the discarded pizza boxes. This issue is quite serious. 

Thousands of pizzas are devoured every day, and every feast produces the same outcome: a few nibbled crusts and a large cardboard box, usually oily or stained with sauce. Now, fitting these cardboard squares into regular trash cans isn’t easy, and if the box sticks out, it can become prey for the insects or–even worse–the many rats scurrying around the city.

To solve this, the Central Park Conservancy, the institution responsible for maintaining the park, came up with a unique idea: installing a special pizza-box-sized recycling bin.

I’m done with this, now what do I do with it? This is probably the question that many New Yorkers and tourists ask themselves every day after enjoying a nice, hot pie in the park that leaves them with a large, greasy cardboard square that hardly fits into a trash can. Even if they want to be good citizens and do their best to fold the box to its smallest possible size, it’s still a problem, as it takes up a lot of space and can even block the trash can.

Is it that bad, really? Betsy Smith, president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, says that on a sunny day, workers can find more than 100 boxes behind the Metropolitan Museum of Art. And that’s just in one specific area of the park, which spans 842 acres.

People leave the boxes stacked up on top of trash cans and recycling bins. Some try to tear them apart and stuff them inside the bins, but this hardly solves the problem, as the boxes make it much harder to dispose of other trash. The situation was so extreme that the Central Park Conservancy declared it a major issue. “It was not an efficient way for us to collect the trash,” the institution concluded.

If something isn’t working, change it. That’s exactly what the Central Park Conservancy set out to do in order to put an end to the pizza box crisis. The idea was simple. The conservancy developed a special container for pizza boxes, designed specifically to ensure they could be neatly stacked and keep them away from the insects and rodents–another major issue that has led the city to reevaluate its waste management system.

“People want to do the right thing, they want to recycle, and we’re just giving them a better opportunity to do so,” Smith told to The New York Times. So far, only one of these new containers has been installed in a popular picnic area. Park employees will empty it at least three times a day.

A $1,500 trash can. “The traditional circular waste bins are simply not designed to accommodate the boxes, leading to jammed cans that can attract rodents," Central Park Conservancy spokesperson Kat Brady told NBC. The pilot bin holds about 50 boxes—more, if they’re flattened—and cost $1,500. If the trial is successful, the model could be rolled out to other parts of Central Park.

How much pizza are New Yorkers eating, anyway? If the 100 daily boxes that the Central Park Conservancy mentioned aren’t enough, there are other indicators of how much New Yorkers love their pizza. Some sources state that the city's population consumes up to 500,000 pizzas each day, with the most popular pizza places using more than a thousand boxes daily. This phenomenon isn’t exclusive to the Big Apple, either: A decade ago, The Atlantic and The Washington Post cited a study that concluded that the American pizza industry serves 100 acres of pizza every single day.

As highlighted by The New York Times, the city's passion for pizza is so intense that its Department of Sanitation has had to adapt its operations to manage the mountains of waste that the meal generates. Unlike other cities where greasy containers aren’t recycled, New York allows it after a few days or even hours. Recycled boxes are turned into paper rolls, cartons, or new pizza boxes.

Image | The Central Park Conservancy

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