Isn’t all wrapping paper recyclable?

‘Can wrapping paper be recycled?’ is a commonly asked question.

Unfortunately, Christmas wrapping paper is often dyed, printed, laminated and/or contains non-paper-based additions (which can include glitter and plastic elements) which can’t be recycled.

Can I recycle my Christmas wrapping paper?

The good news is that the cheaper wrapping papers are often among the easier to recycle.

Use the ‘scrunch test’ to help determine if your wrapping paper is recyclable. If you can scrunch it up into a ball and it stays that way, it’s likely that it can be recycled. If it starts to expand/unravel, sadly it’s much less likely.

If the wrapping paper is clearly ‘metallic’ or coated (often plastic) in some way, or covered in glitter, it probably can’t be recycled either.

And, whatever you do, before recycling any wrapping paper, ALWAYS remove any plastic sticky tape, ribbons and bows (and reuse anything you can next time while aiming not to buy any more) that can’t be recycled.

On the subject of tape, we recommend using paper tape as it’s plastic free, biodegradable and generally home compostable. When you are next buying wrapping paper, consider buying paper that is recyclable.

What are the alternatives?

  • Buy recyclable wrapping paper
    From traditional brown paper to patterned kraft paper varieties, recycled wrapping paper is generally biodegradable and home compostable. Ideally look for one that is made from recycled paper, sustainably sourced (FSC or similar) and clearly labelled as recyclable. In the UK we have recently come across options in the likes of Clas Ohlson, Wilko, Ryman, Paperchase, WH Smith, Happy Wrap and Re Wrapped. Unfortunately, many will still come wrapped in plastic but overall you are significantly reducing the amount of plastic and non-recyclable materials used. Other, non-kraft paper options, also exist.
  • Make your own wrapping paper and gift bags
    Whether it’s from old newspaper/magazines or unwanted fabric, scraps of paper or recycled paper that the kids can decorate themselves, get creative!
  • Reuse
    Save and reuse your wrapping paper, including any you receive. The same goes for gift bags and boxes.
  • Avoid using wrapping paper altogether
    Use reusable sacks or bags (not necessarily Christmas patterned) and avoid wrapping gifts entirely. It’s a more drastic option and won’t suit everyone.

Happy wrapping, and happy Christmas!

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