After Christmas morning has come and the presents have been torn into, there always comes the inevitable wrapping paper fall out. Bulging garbage bags filled with paper and ribbons replace the pile of gifts and a trip to the landfill is usually the fate which awaits them.
There is always aunt Susie or the other frugal few who carefully unwrap their gifts as not to mess up the paper and save it for reuse, but let's be honest — that's very rare.
Can You Recycle it?
The good news is that, yes, some kinds of wrapping paper can be recycled. Beside the cheap, super-thin kind and ornate papers covered in foils, glitter and the like, there is a good chance that it can be converted into useful products again.
Many municipal recycling programs will gladly take in wrapping paper. For example, New York City will accept it as part of the "mixed paper" category with the only stipulation being that it can't be coated in plastic or wax. Check with your local recycling center to find out if they do the same.
If You Can't Recycle It
Here are a few things to do with your used wrapping paper that are pretty utilitarian and don't involve arts & crafts projects:
- The New York Department of Conservation recommends shredding wrapping paper to use as "filler" in boxes instead of tissue paper. You could also simply crumple your used wrapping paper to use instead of bubble wrap or packing peanuts when packing fragile objects in boxes.
- Save it and wrap gifts with it next year. If you are concerned about wrinkles, you can gently iron them out.
- Cut it up and use the back as scrap paper.
Preventing the Annual Avalanche of Wrapping Paper
Use wrapping paper or holiday cards made from recycled materials: This is the easiest way to help divert packaging material from ending up as landfill fodder and prevents virgin paper from entering the waste stream.
Wrap presents in everyday paper: The colorful Sunday comics section and even regular newspaper is totally functional (and distinctive) as a gift wrap. Plain brown butcher or kraft paper is another understated option which is also easier to recycle than traditional gift wrap.
Reusable containers: Gift bags and boxes can be nearly endless reused, and it also saves time as well. Giving gifts in useful objects like mason jars also provides a bonus for the recipient, as they can be used in a myriad of ways beyond the holidays. You may also want to consider the traditional Japanese “furoshiki” cloth wrapping material.
Give minimalist gifts: Event tickets and gift certificates are always appreciated and require a minimum of packaging. It’s a win-win situation.