Recycling paper is good right? Usually, yes—but recycling gift wrap might actually cause more harm to the Earth than good. Consider implementing some gift decorating alternatives this holiday season.
The holiday season is upon us, and that means it’s officially time to start gathering gifts to put under the tree. For as cheery and beautiful as the holidays can be, they’ve also proven to be incredibly wasteful—particularly over the last few years. In fact, Earth911 estimates that approximately 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper is produced in the U.S. each year, and that nearly 2.3 million pounds of it ends up in landfills.
If we’ve been taught that it’s best to recycle paper, why is wrapping paper any different? And what alternative wrapping approaches should we implement to ensure that we don’t unnecessarily pollute the Earth any further? In the first week of our four-part “Sustainable Holiday” series, we’ll answer these questions and explore how we can have a more eco-friendly holiday season.
Wrapping Paper Pollutes Landfills
Since wrapping paper is light and expensive, it’s reported that it represents only 2 percent of the industry’s annual weight by volume. But the paper that does end up in landfills can usually cause a bit of a problem.
Recent data pulled on the U.S. paper industry estimates that the wrapping paper business will annually generate a revenue base of $9.6 billion—suggesting that the wrapping paper industry represents about 10 percent of the total U.S. paper market by revenue, according to Statista.
You might think that loading your recycling bin with wrapping paper is okay in the long run, but data proves otherwise.
Wrapping Paper Contributes Recycling Contamination
Contrary to popular belief, most wrapping paper actually isn’t recyclable. In fact, if the wrapping paper has glitter, texture or any metallic element to it, the product actually isn’t just non recyclable, it can be a contaminant too.
According to BBC, a great way to test whether the wrapping paper is recyclable, is to bunch the product into a ball. If it holds together in the shape of a ball, it’s probably recyclable. If it doesn’t hold together, it’s because the contaminants in the product will actually stretch out the paper from holding together.
Beyond wrapping paper, a number of other common decorative elements also can’t be recycled—like ribbons or bows, unless specifically noted otherwise.
Beyond Basic Wrapping Paper
So, if wrapping paper is considered a contaminant, what alternatives do I have to wrap gifts with?
Avoid using cellophane, glitter-ridden products, packing materials like bubble wrap or foam sheets when preparing gifts to either wrap or ship this holiday season.
Consider instead investing in items like cardboard, paper boxes, and gift wrap that lacks non recyclable embellishments. Brown Kraft paper is the most similar alternative to basic wrapping paper, that’s not only easy to recycle, but also incredibly affordable. And reusable gift boxes and bags can also be used to beautifully display gifts year after year.
Tune in next Friday for the second installment of our “Sustainable Holiday” series.