Is Holiday Gift Wrapping Paper Recyclable? Tips to Minimize Holiday Waste

Holidays Gift Giving Image

Can You Recycle Holiday Gift Wrapping And Packaging?

The short answer is that only some holiday gift wrapping and packaging is recyclable, and much of what ends up in recycling bins around the holidays is waste material. ​Earth911 estimates​ that even after accounting for some re-use of wrapping paper “approximately 4.6 million lbs. of wrapping paper is produced in the U.S. each year, and that about 2.3 million pounds ends its life in landfills.” Mixing both recyclable and non recyclable materials together in one bin can make an entire load unrecyclable, so it’s imperative to separate them at the source to reduce waste.

How Can You Tell If Gift Wrap Is Made From Recyclable Materials?

Generally, the fancier and more embellished a material is the less likely it is to be recyclable. Why? Dyes, laminates, and ​non-paper additives​ such as glitter and plastics reduce the amount of quality fibers for recycling. ​A good way to test if your wrapping paper is recyclable is to crush wrapping paper into a ball. If it stays bunched up, it is probably recyclable.

  • Wrapping paper that is metallic, has glitter on it, is wax-coated or has a texture is generally ​not recyclable​.
  • Tissue paper and cellophane wrap is ​not recyclable​.
  • Plastic bubble wrap and all types of foam packaging are ​not recyclable.
  • Decorative ribbons, bows, and glitter-laden cards or gift bags are also ​not recyclable​.
  • Unlaminated paper-based wrapping paper typically ​is recyclable​.
  • Plain holiday cards and envelopes (without glitter or embellishments) ​are recyclable​.
  • Cardboard boxes and plain paper bags ​are recyclable.​

Top Tips To Minimize Holiday Waste

According to a ​recent article by Better by Today​, there is a marked rise in the volume of extra waste per U.S. household produced between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. But the good news is that the majority of it can actually be reused, re-purposed or recycled rather than dumped into the waste stream and added to landfills.

So first take a step back and consider ways to ​reduce​ and ​reuse b​ efore recycling. Many households have an eco-friendly tradition of reusing holiday gift wrapping paper and gift bags for multiple uses to extend its value. Or, you can wrap gift items in recyclable brown craft paper and decorate with natural string, pine cones, or tree sprigs instead of buying commercial gift wrap options. You can also invest in holiday dishware and cloth napkins rather than resorting to disposable items for your holiday meal.

Once your holiday celebration is over, consider the following to properly prep for recycling and minimize holiday waste:

  • Before recycling remove any ribbons or bows, other decorations, and sticky tape adhered to plain wrapping paper or gift bags.
  • Remove any ribbon or fabric handles on paper gift bags prior to recycling them.
  • Place all non-recyclable holiday paper and packaging in a trash bag and place it in your waste receptacle.
  • Place all recyclable paper and packaging inside a recyclable paper bag or box.
  • Break down all your cardboard boxes and place them neatly inside one big box on your doorstep to save space and make it easier to transport.
  • Keep usable toys, clothes and electronics out of the waste stream by donating them to a local charity or swapping with friends and family.