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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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  • LUANNA P. 4 days ago
    Wrapping paper can be made into art in journals. Gift bags can also be recycled into covers or if very small into the pages of a journal. This is of course a final destination if you reuse gift bags every year. It becomes a family joke at some point.
  • Betty M. 4 days ago
    We use gift bags rather than wrapping paper. Our family re-uses the ones they received one year for gift giving the next. It's fun to see and recognize the gift bag we gave one year being given to us the next or even four or five years down the road.
  • Loreli B. 21 days ago
    I cut up brown paper grocery bags I have gathered over the year the few times I did not have access to my normal fabric grocery bags; turn them over so the original writing is not visible; then attach pretty recycled tags, stamps, and ribbon to decorate them to look like retro mail parcels.
  • Mary Ann B. 1 month ago
    Instead of a gift bag, use a reusable shopping bag. Two gifts in one!
  • Linda B. 2 months ago
    I save my tissue and paper if not torn badly and reuse it for later.
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