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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.
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  • Jan D. 1 month ago
    Our Association has an annual Christmas gathering with a gift exchange. instead of using good paper for the numbers for our exchange I used the small left over scraps of wrapping paper. It was so well received and when folks came up to choose a gift they turned in their gift wrap number, so we've used the same numbers for 3 years
  • Roseli Z. 1 month ago
    I saved an interesting tutorial from Pinterest that shows how to paint newspaper to turn it into gift wrapping. I'll definitely be doing that! It has always bothered me to throw away so much gift paper.
  • Paula V. 1 month ago
    I have saved some very pretty wrapping paper that later I used to decorate walls. I just cut out to fit a certain frame or glued these on an interesting piece of wood with modge podge.
  • Sue L. 3 months ago
    For years (I'm 69), at Christmas my family would yell at me for opening my Christmas presents too slowly and carefully with scissors so I could save the paper, especially if I thought it was extra pretty! Many of my supposedly "quirky" habits (that were ridiculed especially by my ex) like that are now in vogue as "the thing to do" to recycle and conserve! I was just ahead of my time! ;o)
  • Justin P. 3 months ago
    Just signed up for this program today, but if each article says "check with your municipality," I can't see myself using this website to improve my recycling abilities.
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