Tuesday, January 10, 2012

the pizza industry and paper waste

When a good day ends with a bonus slice of pizza that would have otherwise been pitched into the trash along with crushed foam products, plastic forks, and disposable paper napkins, you enter into a kind of bonus land of consciousness, and the world stops, and pizza assumes total sovereignty.  Pizza by the slice is a good idea, but its practice comes with an unfortunate consequence.  The business produces a ton of waste paper.  How many single slices of pizza make short, five minute journeys inside of little, custom slice boxes each day?  I hate to estimate that quantity—it's a big number—but this is not an exhortation to slice shops everywhere.  I am complicit in the paper waste, too.  I have been house sitting in Amherst, and eating two pizza slice meals each day.  Tonight, when the cashier offered me a second free slice (a generous business practice), I dropped my plans to take out my slice on a paper plate and opted for the box.  One paper plate is a little small for two big slices.  But still...

I don't know a ton about recycling, but I do know that the recycling program in my city has started accepting modestly greasy old pizza boxes.  This is a good change.  It used to be that you got one pepperoni grease stain on your pizza box and that was it for that box.  It was headed to the trash can for sure.  Now at least the cautious consumer can mind how greasy the box is and attempt a recycle.  I am serious about this.  I hate the fact that something as beautiful as pizza is tied up with something as problematic as unnecessary waste.  If I was an enterprising businessman, I would come up with the solution and make bank.  I hope someone is hard at work on it.  There is a ton of fairly honest money to be made from solving the excess paper waste problem of the pizza industry. This problem has been on my mind for eight years.  How many paper boxes have I chucked in the interim?  

This pet rant of mine started at Penny's Pizza on the corner of Ashland and Jackson in Chicago, when, one night I showed up to work and found a several cases of low-quality promotional pizza boxes, shrink-wrapped in plastic, waiting for me on the prep table in the back room.  I think they were Comcast pizza boxes.  Someone at Comcast had the bold and bright idea that Comcast could get more customers by paying some pizza box printer to spangle the Comcast logo upon God knows how many cases of flimsy pizza boxes and then ship the "free boxes" at random to pizza shops everywhere; the assumption being that the pizza shop owners would jump for joy upon receiving free paper products and would happily send out their pizzas in boxes with the Comcast logo on them instead of in boxes with their own logo.  But at Penny's, we had our own boxes—they said "Penny's" on them—and so all of the Comcast boxes went into the trash—or the recycling—it makes little difference.  This, unfortunately, is how business often works.  This is the dominant paradigm.  Waste is factored into profit.  Comcast paid someone to carry out that misguided pizza box scheme, and the beauty of pizza had been besmirched.  But there is hope.  How could pizza not inspire hope?

I don't put my faith in product-based solutions—systemic solutions are the solutions we most need—otherwise it's Band-Aids on broken bones—but still I think that a product-based solution to the pizza industry paper waste problem is a solution worth pursuing.  If you know any enterprising young businessmen or businesswomen, please send them in my direction.  I will only charge them a modest consultancy fee of ten million dollars or enough money to pay off my student loans and put a down payment on a small farm somewhere, whichever sum is less. 

1 comment:

hilary said...

nice pizza pictures. at my place of employment we use compostable pizza boxes