Is Wrapping Paper Recyclable + 5 Ways to Reduce Gift Wrap Waste

A gift wrapping station with a wrapped gift and ribbons

With gift giving occasions comes plenty of wrapping paper, which often ends up getting thrown in the trash and contributing to the global waste problem. A great way to counteract that issue would be to recycle all the wrapping paper. But, is wrapping paper even recyclable?

With this article, we'll be going over everything you need to know about tossing your recycling paper and reducing waste when giving gifts:

We'll start with the most important question here: whether or not wrapping paper is recyclable.


Can you recycle wrapping paper?

The answer is both yes and no. Some wrapping paper can be recycled and some can't. Essentially, any wrapping paper that is made only of paper can be recycled. Unfortunately, that means the most common wrapping papers are not recyclable. You also can't recycle gift decorations such as ribbons and bows.

Let's take a closer look at what makes wrapping paper recyclable.


What wrapping paper can be recycled and what cannot 

Two gifts wrapped in different kinds of wrapping paper

Recyclable wrapping paper is wrapping paper that is made from 100% paper. If you want wrapping paper that is recyclable, you need to make sure there aren't any non-paper additives in it. Some of these are fairly easy to catch, such as glitter, metallic flakes, or a plastic coating. But, if you're not sure, there are a few ways to check if wrapping paper is recyclable.

The first thing you can do is just check the packaging. It will likely tell you if it's recyclable wrapping paper. If not, you can also do a scrunch test with your paper. To do a scrunch test, squeeze some of the gift wrap into a ball. If it stays a ball when you let go, it's likely recyclable. If the paper springs back into a flat sheet when you let go, it definitely isn't recyclable.

To boil it down, here's a quick list of wrapping paper that can and can't be recycled.


Do recycle

Don’t recycle

  • Plain wrapping paper
  • Kraft paper
  • Glossy wrapping paper
  • Wrapping paper that passes the scrunch test
  • Metallic wrapping paper
  • Glittery paper
  • Wrapping paper with a plastic coating
  • Wrapping paper with metallic flakes
  • Any wrapping paper with non-paper additives

 


     


     

    How to properly recycle wrapping paper

    The first thing to do is check that you have recyclable wrapping paper. After that, actually recycling the gift wrap is fairly easy. Remove any remaining decorations and gift tags, and then you're good to toss it in the recycling bin. During the holidays when lots of gifts are being opened, we suggest you remove decorations as they're being opened so you don't have to do it all at once later.


    Is wrapping paper compostable?

    A gift wrapped in compostable wrapping paper

    Recycling isn't your only option with wrapping paper. It can actually be composted as well. The same rules apply to both recycling and composting. Only wrapping paper that is 100% paper can be composted. Also, while glossy wrapping paper can be recycled, it can't be composted, which does limit your gift wrap options.

    However, composting your wrapping paper is a fantastic option when you can do it. It completely eliminates waste and turns your wrapping paper into food that nourishes the earth. It's also the perfect option if you have houseplants or a garden of your own, as you can use the resulting to enrich your plants.



    How to compost wrapping paper

    There are a variety of ways to compost at home, so how you compost wrapping paper will depend on the space you have and the type of compost bin you have. Wrapping paper can compost in a traditional outdoor compost pile, in an indoor compost bin, or even in an electric kitchen composter like Lomi. But before you do, make sure the paper is Lomi approved!

    Whatever type of composting method you choose, just keep in mind that paper is a good source of carbon in a compost pile and needs to be balanced with sources that are high in nitrogen. That essentially just means you need to add wet food scraps to the pile with the wrapping paper for it to compost properly. It's also important to tear the wrapping paper into small pieces before throwing it in the compost bin.

    Depending on the method you choose, it can take up to a year for that wrapping paper to turn into a beautiful source of nutrients for your plants. If you want it composted quickly, an electric composter like Lomi can get it done in as little a few hours. 

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    5 ways of reducing gift wrap waste

    Reducing waste is always going to be better than recycling, especially in the case of non-recyclable items. There are plenty of great ways to go about giving others gifts while not being wasteful. Here are just a few things you can do the next time you want to give someone a gift.


    1. Use compostable wrapping paper

    A gift being wrapped in compostable paper and decorations

    As we mentioned earlier, composting is always a great option because it gets rid of waste by turning it into a helpful resource for the planet. Focusing only on buying compostable wrapping paper (such as brown Kraft paper) is a wonderful plan.

    However, if that's your plan, you also need to make sure that it will be getting composted in the end and not just thrown in the trash. If you're wrapping a gift for someone else and you'll be there when they open it, there's no harm in asking them to return the wrapping paper so that you can compost it at home.

    If you're unsure about composting wrapping paper because you're worried it will be a lot of work, don't be! There are plenty of ways to compost that don't require a ton of effort. Electric composting is probably both the quickest and easiest way for you to compost, so you'd have all your gift wrap turned into nutrient-rich dirt in no time.


     


     

    2. Reuse wrapping paper

    A woman sitting with a gift in her lap

    There's no reason wrapping paper has to be a single-use item. Although it's easier to tear into gift wrap when unwrapping our gifts, it is absolutely possible to unwrap things without breaking the paper (unless the wrapper got overzealous with the tape). Plus, if you think about it, reusing the wrapping paper from all your gifts means you'll be spending far less money buying new gift wrap in the future. You can also easily reuse ribbons and bows decorating your gifts.

    Also consider putting gifts in gift bags rather than wrapping them. People are more likely to place gifts in reused gift bags than wrap them in reused wrapping paper.


    3. Don’t use paper at all!

    A couple of gifts in cotton bags

    Wrapping paper doesn't need to be the only way you wrap gifts. There are plenty of ways to wrap gifts that more eco-friendly than wrapping paper, even if that wrapping paper is recyclable. One way is to wrap presents in something that the receiver of the gift will also be able to use. An example of this would be a reusable shopping bag, like a cotton tote. It may not be a traditional way to wrap a present, but it essentially adds another item to your gift.

    Gift boxes that are made from cardboard boxes are also a fantastic plan. Cardboard boxes are both recycable and compostable, and the gift receiver is likely to instantly know they can throw their cardboard box in a recycling bin.

    Of course, you can wrap presents in pretty much anything you find lying around your house that you don't need. Reusing something you already own is more sustainable than buying something new. Some fabric swatches, construction paper, or even old newspapers will get the job done.


    4. Wrap as efficiently as possible

    A single wrapped gift with a gift tag on it

    If you already have a roll of regular wrapping paper that can't be recycled and you want to use it so it doesn't just go to waste, that's also fine. Just try to be as conservative as possible when wrapping so you're getting as much use out of the roll as you can. It's definitely easier to wrap gifts in a way that's wasteful, but if you need help, you can easily find tutorials on efficient wrapping online.


    5. Gift experiences

    Movie theatre popcorn in popcorn dishes

    One of the most sustainable ways to gift during the holiday season is to gift experiences rather than material items. Not only do you not need to wrap anything when you gift an experience, but you're also not buying anything tangible that could end up just getting tossed in the garbage if the recipient didn't like it anyway.

    The experience itself doesn't have to be anything complicated either. Most people enjoy watching movies, so purchasing some movie tickets and snack vouchers will be a great present for almost anyone. Of course you can also get experiences like museum tours, boat tours, or really anything you think the recipient might enjoy. Most people aren't gifting experiences, so it's also likely to be a unique gift for them.


    The holiday season, or any other time people give gifts, tends to be a terrible time for the planet. You can make it less so by composting and recycling wrapping papers whenever possible, or doing anything else to reduce your own waste at that time. If you do choose to compost what you can, make sure to check out Lomi and how it can benefit your household.


    Written by: Sereana Simpson