In observance of President's Day, we are closed on Monday, February 19, 2024.

Discover if wrapping paper is recyclable and learn eco-friendly alternatives for gift-giving. Tips for sustainable wrapping, reusing, and proper recycling.

Paper recycling is like giving old paper a second chance at life. It’s turning our morning newspapers, yesterday’s notes, and more into something new and useful.

But here comes the holiday season, and with it, heaps of wrapping paper. Every year, as gifts are exchanged, a common question pops up in environmentally-conscious circles: "Is wrapping paper recyclable?"

I know, it seems like it should be a no-brainer, but it’s actually a bit more complicated than you might think.

Stick with me, and I’ll guide you through the ins and outs of wrapping paper and its place in the recycling world. Whether you’re wrapping a single gift or decking out an entire party, let’s figure this out together.

Can You Recycle Wrapping Paper?

The short answer is yes, but with some important caveats.

The plain wrapping paper is 100% recyclable.

recycle wrapping paper

Not all wrapping paper is created equal, and while some can head straight into your recycling bin, others are better suited for the trash.

The key is in the details — like if the gift wrap is metallic wrapping paper or glossy wrapping paper. In those cases, it’s a no-no for recycling.

So, as much as we love that sparkly, shiny paper, it’s not the planet's best friend. Let’s dive deeper into what makes wrapping paper recyclable and how to tell the difference.

How to Know If Wrapping Paper Can be Recycled

Identifying recyclable wrapping paper is a bit like playing detective. The first clue? Simplicity.

The plainer the paper, the more likely it is to be recyclable. Avoid wrapping paper with shiny, metallic finishes or glitter, which are recycling no-nos. Here’s a trick: try the scrunch test. If you scrunch the paper into a ball and it stays that way, it’s probably recyclable.

If it unfolds and holds its shape, it’s likely not.

Look for certifications on the packaging. Trustworthy ones to keep an eye out for include:

  • FSC (Forest Stewardship Council)
  • PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification)
  • Recycled Paper Logo
  • Here are a few common labels to keep an eye out for:
  • Recycled content
  • 100% paper
  • Eco-friendly
  • Biodegradable

These labels indicate that the paper is sourced sustainably or made from recycled materials.

Can Christmas Wrapping Paper Be Recycled?

Ah, Christmas. A time of joy, gifts, and... a whole lot of wrapping paper. But can this festive gift wrap be recycled?

Sadly, much of the Christmas wrapping paper on the market doesn't pass the recycling test due to metallic coatings, glitter, or plastic content.

Many brands are now offering recyclable wrapping paper options. It's all about being mindful and making informed choices. If you're keen on a greener holiday, I'd recommend checking the packaging or the company's website. Often, they'll clearly state if their wrapping paper is recyclable or not.

Comparing different brands can make a world of difference. For instance, Brand A might offer a 100% recycled paper option with soy-based inks, while Brand B’s paper is shiny and full of plastic. The choice becomes clear: Brand A will be your eco-hero, while Brand B is more of a Grinch in the recycling world!

What Makes Some Wrapping Paper Non-Recyclable

You might be surprised to hear that a lot of the wrapping paper options out there aren't recyclable. Why? It often comes down to the special coatings, finishes, and materials that give some wrapping papers their vibrant and glossy appearance. These additives may look great under the Christmas tree, but they're a recycling plant’s nightmare.

One major culprit is glitter. It’s shiny and festive, but it's also a microplastic that doesn’t break down and can’t be separated from the paper during the recycling process. The same goes for metallic finishes and foil accents; they’re not paper, so they don't belong in the paper recycling bin.

non recyclable wrapping paper

Here’s a list of common materials in wrapping paper that makes it non-recyclable:

  • Glitter
  • Metallic coatings or foils
  • Plastic laminates
  • Synthetic fibers
  • Dyes and inks (some types can complicate recycling)
  • Tape and adhesive residues

Also, papers that are extremely thin don't have enough valuable fibers for recycling. In this case, they may be better suited for composting if they don't have those non-recyclable add-ons.

So, when you're standing in the store, debating between rolls of wrapping paper, think about what’s in the paper, not just what’s on it. A simpler, plainer option is often the greener choice — and with a little creativity, it can be just as beautiful!

How to Recycle Wrapping Paper Properly

Step-by-Step Guide to Recycling Wrapping Paper

Recycling wrapping paper isn't just about tossing it in the recycling bin and calling it a day. There are a few steps we need to take to ensure that our good intentions actually lead to positive results. Here’s a simple guide to doing it right:

  1. Inspect the Paper: Check for non-recyclable materials like glitter, foil, or plastic. If the paper is free of these, it’s likely recyclable.
  2. Remove Tape and Ribbons: These materials can’t be recycled with paper. Take a moment to peel off any tape and remove ribbons or bows.
  3. Flatten the Paper: Make the paper as flat as possible. This makes it easier to process.
  4. Check Local Guidelines: Recycling rules can vary. Take a minute to check with your local recycling program to see if they accept wrapping paper.
  5. Place in the Right Bin: If it’s recyclable, place the wrapping paper in your paper recycling bin.

Did you know? During the holiday season, it's estimated that in the United States alone, nearly 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags are wasted. That's a lot of potential recycling!

Alternatives to Recycling Wrapping Paper

Not all wrapping paper is recyclable, but that doesn't mean its only destination is the trash bin. Is the question, is wrapping paper recyclable, making you too worried? Then, you should look for alternatives. There are creative and useful ways to give that traditional wrapping paper a second life. Here are some ideas:

crafting with wrapping paper
  • Reusing: Keep and reuse wrapping paper for future gifts. If it’s a little crinkly, iron it on a low setting to make it smooth again.
  • Crafting: Use wrapping paper for crafting projects – like scrapbooking, origami, or making homemade cards.
  • Packing Material: Crumple it up and use it as packing material the next time you need to ship a package.
  • Composting: If the paper is not coated with plastic or metallic materials, and it doesn't have glitter, it can be composted. You can use them in your compost pile easily. 
  • DIY Drawer Liners: Cut the paper to fit inside your drawers for a fun and fresh look.

Being sustainable is often about being resourceful. Instead of seeing used wrapping paper as waste, we can view it as a resource waiting for its next purpose. Let’s get creative and make the most of what we have!

Tips for a More Sustainable Gift-Giving Experience

Gift-giving is a beautiful way to show love and appreciation, and it doesn't have to come at the expense of our planet. By making mindful choices, we can enjoy the joy of giving and receiving gifts while also honoring our commitment to sustainability. Here are some tips to help you make your gift-giving more eco-friendly:

kraft paper for wrapping gifts
  1. Choose Biodegradable Wrapping Paper: Look for paper that is labeled as 100% biodegradable, like kraft paper. It breaks down naturally and won’t linger in landfills for years.
  2. Opt for Reusable Gift Wrap: Consider using fabric wraps, cloth bags, or reusable gift bags. They can be used over and over again, cutting down on single-use paper.
  3. Repurpose Old Wrapping Paper: Before you throw that paper away, think about how it can be reused. Could it become next year’s gift tags, or perhaps add flair to a future craft project?
  4. Explore Non-Paper Wrappers: Get creative and use scarves, tea towels, or old maps as gift wrap. They add a unique touch to your gift and can be used again.
  5. Buy in Bulk: If you do need to buy wrapping paper, consider buying in bulk to reduce packaging. Share the surplus with family or friends.
  6. Avoid Over-Wrapping: Sometimes less is more. Skip the extra layers of paper, ribbons, and bows while gift wrapping that will only end up in the trash.
  7. Send Digital Cards: Instead of physical greeting cards that might end up in the trash, send digital ones. They can be just as heartfelt and won’t create any waste.
  8. Plan Ahead: Save wrapping materials you receive throughout the year and repurpose them during the holiday season. It reduces waste and can save you some money, too!
  9. Make Your Own Wrapping Paper: Use plain kraft paper (it’s recyclable!) and jazz it up with stamps, drawings, or natural elements like pine sprigs.
  10. Gift Experiences, Not Things: Consider giving experiences, like a cooking class, a concert ticket, or a spa day, instead of physical items. They create memories, not waste.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I put wrapping paper in the recycling bin?

Yes, but only if it is free of glitter, foil, and other non-paper materials. Always remove tape and ribbons before recycling.

How can you tell if wrapping paper is recyclable?

Check for labels indicating it's recyclable or made from recycled content. A good rule of thumb: if it tears easily, it’s likely recyclable. Avoid paper with metallic coatings, glitter, or plastic laminates.

What Types of Wrapping Paper Are Non-Recyclable?

Non-recyclable wrapping papers often include those with glitter, metallic coatings, plastic laminates, synthetic fibers, and heavy dye or ink coverage.

Why is wrapping paper not recycled?

Certain wrapping papers are not recycled because they contain materials (like glitter, metallic coatings, or plastic laminates) that cannot be separated from the paper during the recycling process. Additionally, some papers are too thin to have valuable fibers for recycling.

Is wrapping paper biodegradable?

Some wrapping papers, especially those made from 100% paper without any additional coatings or additives, are biodegradable. Always check the label for information on its biodegradability.

Reuse Or Go For Plain Wrapping Paper

It’s clear to see why the question — is wrapping paper recyclable — such an important one, especially during the gift-giving seasons. Remember the mountains of wrapping paper that pile up during the holidays? A significant amount of that could either be recycled or avoided altogether, which can play a part in reducing waste and caring for our planet.

I encourage you, my eco-conscious friends, to opt for eco-friendly gift wraps whenever possible. Whether it's choosing biodegradable wrapping paper, reusing last year’s gift bags, or getting creative with non-paper options like scarves or reusable fabric gift wraps or kraft paper, there are plenty of beautiful and sustainable alternatives to explore.

And beyond gift-giving occasions, let's all make a conscious effort to practice responsible consumption and disposal in our daily lives. Every choice we make, no matter how small it seems, adds up over time.

So, the next time you're wrapping a gift, I challenge you to pause and consider: Is this wrapping paper recyclable? And better yet, is there a more sustainable option I could use instead?

Samira is an Electronics and Communications Engineer by profession, but deep inside, her heart is a nomad! She's a state champion debater, a public speaker, a scriptwriter, a theater actress, but most importantly — A GREEN CITIZEN! She thinks of herself as a storyteller who thrives on enjoying the life at fullest and telling everyone the tales of life.

Subscribe to
our newsletter