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The Pizza Box: An Overlooked Feat of Engineering
Whether getting your pizza delivered or taking it home yourself, take some time to thank the cardboard box in which it came. Read Groupon’s overview to learn just how much that corrugated container protects your pie.
When ordering pizza, most customers hold little doubt that their pie will survive the journey from the oven to the table intact. This unshaken faith is largely thanks to the simple-yet-effective design of the pizza box, which incorporates several features to address the problems of keeping a pizza piping hot, dry, and intact. Made of strong corrugated cardboard, the container retains its shape even in the face of steam and dripping oil; the corrugation acts like a double-pane window, trapping channels of air to provide insulation. Small vents on the sides let air into the box as well to counter condensation and prevent the dry crust from getting soggy. Even the shape of the box—a square rather than a circle, like the pizza itself—solves a unique problem: the extra space in the corners makes it easier to fit your fingers under the crust to snag a slice by hand.
Since the modern pizza box’s invention in the early 1960s, the basic concept has remained relatively unchanged, but doesn’t mean some designs haven’t experimented with minor tweaks. Some boxes include built-in holders for dipping sauce or a perforated lid that can be ripped into wedge-shaped plates. Perhaps the most notable variation is the addition of the pizza saver—typically a small tripod molded from heat-resistant plastic that keeps the lid from touching the top of the pizza. This solution keeps the pizza itself from getting smushed when the lid starts to sag or other boxes are stacked on top when the delivery driver has to climb up to a high-rise apartment.
For all its practical benefits, the pizza box is not without its flaws. Chiefly among them, cardboard soaked with grease cannot be recycled, which means many boxes from the 3 billion pizzas sold in the US each year end up in landfills. However, customers can help mitigate this problem on their own: simply tear off the oily parts, throw them in the compost pile, and recycle the rest of the cardboard.