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Top tips for recycling wrapping paper

Updated: May 24

Not all wrapping paper is created equal, and unfortunately not all wrapping paper can be recycled, despite seeming to be made of paper. This is because many types of wrapping paper have additional materials added, to make it more attractive or more resistant to tearing for example, and these additional materials contaminate the paper waste, meaning that the pulped paper is not suitable for recycling.

A pile of presents wrapped in shiny wrapping paper

So that your beautiful wrapping paper doesn't just end up going straight to landfill, you need to be selective when choosing which type to buy, and also selective when deciding on what belongs in the recycling bin.

How to spot recyclable wrapping paper

When choosing wrapping paper (or when sorting it later for recycling) watch out for the following types of gift wrap which can't be recycled via your normal kerbside paper collection:

❌ Paper which contains a fine film of plastic or foil. This paper usually looks shiny or even metallic, but because it contains a mixture of materials it can’t be recycled. This type of paper needs to go in your landfill waste.

❌ Paper with foil or plastic embellishments such as metallic stars or glitter. Again because the paper contains mixed materials it can’t be recycled and needs to go in with your landfill waste.

❌ Paper covered in plastic sticky tape. This is because the sticky tape is plastic so can’t be recycled along with the paper. If you can peel off most (ideally all) of the sticky tape, or else tear off the tape-covered parts, then the remaining paper can go in the recycling; otherwise it needs to go to landfill.

The following types of wrapping paper are safe to recycle:

✅ Plain printed paper, with no glitter or shiny bits, and no attached plastic tape can go in the recycling.

✅ Plain printed paper as above, but with paper tape rather than the standard plastic sticky tape, can also go straight in the recycling. The paper tape is recyclable so there’s no need to peel it off first.

Does your gift wrap contain plastic?

If your paper feels a bit shiny but you’re not sure whether it contains a thin layer of plastic, try scrunching it up into a ball. If it pops straight back into shape, it probably contains a very thin layer of plastic. If it remains more or less scrunched, it’s probably just plain paper.

More Eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas

In order to be more eco-friendly when gift wrapping, it's not simply a question of making sure that you buy wrapping paper that is suitable for recycling. Adopting a more sustainable approach overall means completely rethinking how you wrap gifts, and what you wrap them with.

For example:

  • Is the wrapping paper itself made from recycled paper rather than virgin paper? Using recycled paper for gift wrapping reduces your use of raw materials.

  • If you use ribbon or string to secure your wrapping paper rather than sticky tape, you’ll be able to save the paper as a complete sheet for reusing next year.

  • Another option is to use gift bags rather than wrapping paper for your presents. Gift bags tend to be more robust than paper so can be reused multiple times, and they're quite easy to make yourself if you're feeling crafty.

  • Wrapping your gift in fabric is another way to reduce waste paper. You can use special Japanese style wraps (called furoshiki), which are specifically designed for gift wrapping and can be reused over and over again. These are beautiful and elegant but can seem quite an expensive option when first bought (although their cost per use obviously reduces over time). However there's no reason you can't use other pieces of fabric that you may have lying around for wrapping gifts.

  • Alternatively you could wrap your gift in a new tea towel so that the wrapping is part of the gift itself.

  • You can of course reuse other types of paper for gift wrapping, for example old map sheets or even nice crisp sheets of newspaper can look really attractive.

Related products

We have a wide selection of recycled and recyclable gift wrap, and printed paper tapes in the Gift Wrapping section of our store, for example:

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