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Because You Asked

Because You Asked: Is Wrapping Paper Recyclable?

By Recyclebank |

Gift wrap isn’t always recyclable, so here’s how to cut down on waste while still creating lovely gifts.


Dear Recyclebank: Is wrapping paper recyclable? –Gwen O.

Dear Gwen: This is a question that most folk ponder this time of year! Oftentimes, wrapping paper is recyclable as long as it doesn’t have any glitter on it, and isn’t metallic (both of which ultimately contaminate the other paper recyclables).

But as with many recyclables, it depends on where you live. For example, Philadelphia, Santa Monica, and Chicago accept wrapping paper and tissue paper in the curbside bin, but not if it’s metallic or glitter-covered. On the other hand, in Houston, TX, all wrapping paper has to go in the trash.

And while some recyclers do accept tissue paper for recycling, it is usually made from already-recycled paper, and the fibers are so short that they usually can’t be recycled into paper again. Some municipalities, such as San Francisco, recommend composting it instead.

The bottom line: Check your city’s recycling rules to see how you can dispose of all the different types of gift wrap this season.

And when you’re gearing up to give gifts, think of more earth-friendly alternatives to traditional wrapping paper. In lieu of wasteful single-use paper, here are some other ways you can present a gift:

  • Use scraps of colorful fabric, which can be used again and again.
  • Invest in reusable gift wrap.
  • Look for recycled paper gift wrap, so you know it has done some good for the environment.
  • Make reusable, pre-wrapped gift boxes.
  • Get creative by repurposing paper or other items you already have in the house as a wrapper. Old maps, newspaper, pages from a phone book, blueprints, pillowcases, or wallpaper samples could all be used to wrap a gift.


When you receive a gift in traditional wrapping, open it carefully so that you can keep the paper intact and unwrinkled to use again. Unsalvageable wrapping paper can be used for other purposes too: Wad it up to use as packing material to ship a package or pack up your holiday decorations, or get crafty with it by making a gift-wrap wreath or another craft project.

How do you cut down on wrapping paper waste during the holidays? Share your tips in the comments below.

Share with Your Friends & Family
  • Carol P. 3 months ago
    Instead of wrapping paper for gifts, especially children, use comics from the Sunday paper or reuse those gift bags that you can get at the Dollar Store.
  • Nancy B. 5 months ago
    What about wax coated milk containers? Dispose of or Recycle? I've been throwing them in the trash. I squish them up first.
    • Kathy S. 4 months ago
      Recyclecartons.com is the website to check whether your area allows these in recycling or not - just enter your zip code.
  • Denise N. 5 months ago
    Wrapping paper makes great origami paper....I am trying to get people to donate those smaller pieces to my library maker space....
  • Jill B. 5 months ago
    My family uses gift bags for several years until they fall apart.
  • NAncy Lee B. 5 months ago
    I took some of the larger pieces of gift wrap from opened packages ad crafted smaller gift bags with them. I also use glittery scraps in the mix when I make art paper sheets for colorful shiny effects.
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