Christmas presents wrapped up.
Reducing Christmas wrapping paper waste

A Guide to Reducing Christmas Wrapping Paper Waste

In the UK we spend just over £20 billion on Christmas presents every year – and most of these get wrapped up in all sorts of sparkly, colourful, and festive paper. Hours are spent cutting, taping, and wrapping up gifts only for the recipient to soon tear into it and leave behind scraps of Christmas wrapping paper waste.

Gift wrap is traditionally tricky to recycle as it contains more than just paper, leading to mountains of Christmas wrapping paper waste ending up in landfill. A growing awareness among consumers means more shops and manufacturers are selling and producing recyclable Christmas wrapping paper. There’s still more we can all do to reduce wrapping paper waste at Christmas.

Find out how to reduce Christmas wrapping paper waste as a business or household, both when giving and receiving presents this holiday season.

Christmas wrapping paper waste statistics

To get an idea of the huge scale of the problem Christmas wrapping waste causes and how recycling and reducing it can help our planet, we’ve pulled together some important stats and facts about wrapping paper waste at Christmas. Fascinating Christmas wrapping paper waste statistics include:

  • Around 227,000 miles of Christmas wrapping paper is thrown away every year – a similar distance from the earth to the moon.
  • It means the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper are binned each Christmas in the UK.
  • Recycling all this festive wrapping paper would use 70% less energy than making it from raw materials.
  • One ton of recycled wrapping paper could save around 17 trees, 18 square feet of landfill space, and 4,000 kilowatts of electricity.
  • The average UK household uses four rolls of wrapping paper to prepare Christmas presents.
  • It’s estimated that around 50,000 trees are chopped down to make enough Christmas wrapping paper annually.
  • 300,000 tons of card packaging are used over the festive season.
  • Around 40 million rolls of sticky tape are used to wrap up Christmas presents – including one million rolls on Christmas Eve alone.
  • That’s about one and a half rolls of sticky tape used by every UK household to wrap up Christmas gifts.
  • Producing wrapping paper is problematic too, as Greenpeace found creating 1kg of wrapping paper is responsible for more than 3kg of CO2 emissions.

Is Christmas wrapping 
paper recyclable?

Christmas wrapping paper is recyclable if it’s made purely from paper. Shiny or glittery wrapping paper isn’t normally recyclable as it contains plastic, foil, and other non-paper additives. These are hard to separate from the paper and can weaken the paper fibres so they’re not strong enough to recycle.

For this reason, any laminated, plastic, foil, or glittery Christmas wrapping paper is not recyclable and is thrown away with general waste – ending up in landfill or incineration. However, Christmas wrapping paper made from 100% paper is recyclable and you can put it in your household recycling or commercial paper recycling bin.

Learn about gift wrap recycling
Christmas presents wrapped up with bow.

What Christmas wrapping 
paper is recyclable?

Most Christmas wrapping paper made from pure paper is recyclable, such as:

  • Plain wrapping paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Brown parcel paper
  • Recycled wrapping paper

If you want to recycle Christmas wrapping paper at home, it’s worth checking if your local authority accepts it first. Some don’t take any wrapping paper as it can be thin with few good fibres for recycling. The dyes, lamination, glitter, and other non-paper additives are not recyclable either, which means some councils outright refuse to recycle it.

For businesses, our paper recycling services offer a solution to any waste Christmas wrapping paper. It’s important that you remove any sticky tape, bows, and ribbons first, as these aren’t recyclable.

The easiest way to check if Christmas wrapping paper is recyclable is with the scrunch test:

  • Scrunch the wrapping paper into a ball.
  • Open your hand – if the wrapping paper stays in a ball, it should be recyclable.
  • If it starts to open and unfurl, then it’s unlikely to be recyclable.
Packaging waste disposal and recycling

How to reduce Christmas 
wrapping paper waste

The easiest option is to use recyclable wrapping paper. However, due to the difficulties of recycling Christmas wrapping paper, there are other actions individuals and businesses can take to minimise the waste created. A few things you can do to reduce wrapping paper waste at Christmas include:

  • Buy sustainable Christmas wrapping paper – many places sell sustainable and environmentally friendly Christmas wrapping paper in the UK. This includes everything from biodegradable Christmas wrapping paper to those made from recycled materials, which you can recycle again. Just avoid any plastic, foil, and glittery types.
  • Use Christmas wrapping alternatives – another type of sustainable Christmas wrapping paper is to use old newspapers and magazines (if the recipient isn’t fussy). These are items you’ve already got, which avoids using extra energy and materials to produce wrapping paper. It makes colourful wrapping and newspapers and magazines are easily recyclable.
  • Bag it up – drawstring gift bags are also sustainable and can form part of the present. Plus, they can be reused to give more gifts in the future.
  • Don’t wrap your presents – everyone likes a surprise, but the easiest way to avoid wrapping paper waste at Christmas is to simply not wrap up your presents. If you’re giving to other adults they’ll likely understand – and it saves on sticky tape.
brown paper with candy canes and Christmas lights surrounding it.

What to do with wrapping 
paper after Christmas

You can’t control any gifts you or your business receive around Christmas – including how they’re packaged. If you know you’ll receive a gift from someone in advance, try and politely ask that they don’t wrap them up or to use sustainable options like old newspaper (if you’re not fussy about appearance!).

However, it’s likely you’ll still receive some presents in traditional Christmas wrapping paper. We know you’re excited but avoid immediately ripping the wrapping paper to shreds and instead try to unwrap your presents carefully, keeping the sheets as intact as possible. Then there are a few more sustainable options open to you:

  • Check the wrapping paper type – do the scrunch test and if it’s purely paper then throw it away in your domestic recycling bin or commercial paper recycling bin.
  • Save and rewrap – try and unwrap your gifts carefully and keep the paper in one piece. Remove any sticky tape and then you can save the paper to wrap up other presents in the future, such as for birthdays if it’s not particularly festive paper.
  • Turn it inside out – if the wrapping paper is a full-on Christmas themed design you can still reuse it for birthdays and other occasions. Simply turn it inside out to reuse as white or other plain coloured paper.
  • Use for crafts – Christmas wrapping paper designs include all sorts of shapes, colours, and characters. Cut these out and you can make your own cards for next year or use in other craft works.
  • Shred the paper – due to the thin nature of some festive wrapping paper it’s hard to recycle. Shredding is another sustainable option for pure paper – as you can compost it. Find out more about paper shredding.

Christmas wrapping waste isn’t the only thing that greatly increases over the festive period. We produce lots more of many other waste types and can all do our bit to reduce them as businesses and households – from excess food waste to packaging and Christmas cards.

Learn more in our Christmas waste guides
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