Clean Tech 101

The Recycling of Wrapping Paper

The festive season is here and everybody is busy wrapping up gifts for their loved ones. Gifts are an integral part of any celebration and they are often wrapped in colorful wrapping papers, which are then discarded and thus become a major part of waste during the holiday season. It has been estimated that decorating, wrapping and packaging products account for nearly half of the 85 million tons of paper consumed in United States alone. In addition, shopping bags and wrapping paper alone contribute to nearly four million tons of waste every year in the US, according to reports.

The credit for the development of the gift wrap industry was given to Hallmark that first introduced white, green and red tissue sheets for wrapping gifts in 1917. These decorative envelope lining papers was sold for 10 cents per sheet during the first year. From these small beginnings, the total annual sale of gift wraps now accounts for around $2.6 billion in the global retail industry.

Problems in Recycling Wrapping Paper

Recycling of these wrapping papers is a good option to avoid tons of wrapping wastes ending up in landfills. However, it is often hard to recycle wrapping paper owing to the non-recyclable materials added during its manufacturing stage. The following are some of the major obstructions that prevent the recycling of wrapping papers:

  • Presence of non-paper additives like plastics, glitter, silver and gold coloring
  • Presence of tape used for gift wrapping
  • Dyeing or lamination of the gift paper
  • Thin structure and presence of very less quality fibers

Reusing Wrapping Paper

A large amount of wrapping paper ends up in rubbish bins every year and hence re-using of wrapping papers is a key step we all can take towards achieving a greener environment. Wrapping papers can be reused in many creative ways including the following:

  • Wraps can be cut into triangles and stuck together to a seam binding for creating a party banner.
  • Wrapping paper can be rolled on the empty tin cans for storing scissors, pens and pencils.
  • Shredded wrapping paper can be used in packaging or shipping to prevent breakage of materials.
  • Wraps can be glued on a rectangular cardboard piece and used as a bookmark.
  • Decorative box labels can be made using wrapping papers.
  • Standard white photo frame mats can be covered using the wraps.
  • Wrap papers can be used as book covers and for making greeting cards.
  • Intact wrapping papers can be saved for next year.

Conclusion

Christmas is a time for giving, and most people wrap their presents with decorative wrapping papers. It seems as though your wraps and ribbons have a larger impact on the environment and the carbon footprint and hence it is necessary to recycle them. However, the aforementioned gold and silver coloring, plastics/glitter, tape and lamination/dyeing prevent the wrapping paper from being recycled. In addition, the presence of ribbon can damage the recycling machine as the ribbon is not recyclable. This emphasizes the need to re-use wrapping papers.

Certain alternatives for the use of non-recyclable wraps are using newspapers, maps, colorful ads or pictures from magazines as gift wrappers and replacing bows with natural products like an acorn or holly spring. Use of wrapping papers made of recycled materials is also a great way of helping the environment. The ribbons can be saved for the next holiday season instead of throwing them away and polluting the environment. We can save our planet by reducing the consumption of non-recyclable material and thus paving way for a green and sustainable environment.

Sources and Further Reading

Kris Walker

Written by

Kris Walker

Kris has a BA(hons) in Media & Performance from the University of Salford. Aside from overseeing the editorial and video teams, Kris can be found in far flung corners of the world capturing the story behind the science on behalf of our clients. Outside of work, Kris is finally seeing a return on 25 years of hurt supporting Manchester City.

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