Anyone fond of the holidays probably gets a warm feeling seeing all of the vibrant, glittery wrapping paper hiding the true nature of the gifts inside. But there is unfortunately a dark, not so eco-friendly side to that paper. Every holiday season, millions of pounds of gift wrap are sold, used once, and then discarded. What’s the best way to dispose of that wrapping paper? Since it’s paper, can it just be recycled? The answer is a little bit complicated: sometimes yes, but generally no.
Gift wrap accounts for about 10% of annual paper production and represents a nearly $10 billion industry, but there is no clear-cut, eco-friendly way to deal with gift wrapping paper that can be applied everywhere. Many places simply cannot accept wrapping paper as a recyclable. Often times, the fibers aren’t useful for recycling and inks and dyes on the paper make it impossible to recycle.
If you want to know whether or not gift wrapping paper can be added to your curbside, single-stream recycling, you’ll need to get in touch with your recycling company. If they say yes, you’ve got the green light to recycle! If not, you may have some more research to do. There may be other options in your area for recycling gift wrap.
What to do if wrapping paper is accepted for recycling
If you’re lucky and your local recyclers will take the paper, there’s a bit of work involved for recycling this paper. All tape, bows, ribbons, and glitter have to be removed from the paper before you try to recycle it. These items cannot be recycled, and even worse, they can contaminate other recyclable items, resulting in all of it having to be thrown away.
If you can’t recycle your wrapping paper…
If you don’t have any options for recycling your wrapping paper, all is not lost! Provided the paper wasn’t torn to shreds, you can hold onto this paper for another year and reuse it. It may not be as nice the second time around, but it’ll work! The same goes for all of the ribbons and bows. If reusing the paper isn’t an option, it will unfortunately have to go to the landfill.
Don’t burn your wrapping paper
You might be thinking, hey, it’s Christmas morning, there’s a fire in the fireplace, why not burn the excess paper? Hold up! You shouldn’t ever burn wrapping paper, as the inks, dyes, glitter, and other plastics on the paper could put off toxic fumes when burned, harming your health and the health of those in the immediate area.
What’s the best option?
If you decided to wrap this year’s gifts in wrapping paper or received a gift wrapped this way, you may just need to accept that what’s done is done. Unfortunately, if it can’t be recycled and you have no other choices, it must go to the landfill. But start thinking ahead to next year. Consider wrapping gifts in brown paper bags, which are 100% recyclable, or simply don’t wrap them at all!