six rolls of colourful wrapping paper.

Wrapping Paper Disposal and Recycling

Wrapping paper waste is incredibly common and produced in high volumes every festive season – as well as when celebrating all those birthdays throughout the year. Due to the many different types of gift wrap used, disposing of and recycling wrapping paper can be a complex area. Can you recycle gift wrap, or should it go in your general waste bin?

To help reduce landfill waste and ensure as much wrapping paper is used in a sustainable way, it’s important you understand how to best dispose of it. Discover everything you need to know about wrapping paper disposal and recycling in this guide.

Wrapping paper waste

  • Who invented gift wrap?

    The first evidence of wrapping paper dates back to the second century BC in China. Back then monetary gifts were wrapped in a kind of envelope called chih pao. Centuries later in the early 20th century Rollie and Joyce Hall – the founders of Hallmark Cards – created inventions to popularise the gift wrapping we see today.

    Previously gifts were wrapped in newspaper, brown paper, or fabric. Hallmark started selling coloured tissue paper, which caught on and eventually morphed into the decorative printed wrapping paper we see today.

  • What is wrapping paper made of? And how is it made?

    Various types of wrapping paper are made from a few different materials. The paper base for gift wrap comes from paper produced in wood mills, which is made from wood pulp from softwood trees. Other materials such as plastic and metallic films may be applied to create a decorative effect.

    The general process to make wrapping paper is:

    • First the wood pulp is bleached.
    • The pulp is then squeezed through heavy rolls to expel the moisture.
    • Next, it’s passed over heated rollers to continue the drying process.
    • The dried product then has the design put onto it with inks.
    • Glossier or metallic wrapping paper has a plastic film coated with aluminium placed on it, which contains Mylar.
  • How do you dispose of gift wrap?

    Different types of gift wrap can be disposed of in different ways. Matte gift paper with no glitter or glossy covering can be thrown in your recycling bin at home (after removing tags and bows first). Recycling wrapping paper alongside other waste paper, cardboard, and plastics is the best way to dispose of it.

    However, you can’t recycle metallic wrapping papers as they typically don’t contain enough paper fibres to be useful in a paper mill. Plastic coated paper or laminated gift wrap cannot be recycled either. Instead, this wrapping paper must be disposed of with your general waste.

  • Can you recycle wrapping paper?

    Yes, but you can only recycle certain types of wrapping paper. You can recycle paper gift wrap but not any with a glitter, foil, or plastic coating. Use the scrunch test to see if you can recycle the wrapping paper you’re disposing. If when you scrunch the wrapping paper it:

    • Crumples up easily – likely recyclable
    • Resistant to scrunching – unlikely recyclable
  • What happens to gift wrap once it’s disposed of?

    It depends on whether the gift wrap is recyclable or not. If the paper is recycled, then it goes to a recycling centre where any contaminants are removed and then it’s recycled following this process:

    • Waste wrapping paper is sorted into the relevant grade of paper and stored for processing.
    • It’s then shredded and mixed with hot water to create a pulp.
    • The pulp is then put on a conveyer belt to drip dry, before heated rollers squeeze and dry the pulp into a sheet ready to make new paper products.

    If the wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, then it will go to landfill or incineration. In landfill it can take many years to break down, and chemicals from the plastic coating can leach into the ground – adding to pollution. It may be incinerated to produce energy, but this process still emits greenhouse gases.

  • What are the problems with wrapping paper waste?

    The main problem with wrapping paper waste is that lots of it can’t be recycled. If the wrapping paper isn’t recyclable and is instead sent to landfill, this uses up landfill space and takes a long time to decompose. In the UK, we send five million tonnes of paper to landfill every year. This takes up animal habitats, contaminates soils, water, and more.

  • Are there alternatives to wrapping paper?

    Switching to use recyclable wrapping paper is the best alternative. You can also prevent disposal issues by using traditional newspapers, maps, or brown paper. There are also brands creating fabric and reusable gift wrap. Another alternative is to use baskets to create hampers or recyclable gift bags rather than wrapping up presents.

  • What can you do with wrapping paper instead of throwing it away?

    There are several creative ways to make good use of non-recyclable wrapping paper rather than sending it to landfill or for incineration. Use it for art projects, such as scrapbooking and collages, cover notebooks, or use it to make confetti. If you’re careful when unwrapping presents and it’s still intact, you can even reuse it.

  • Where can you take gift wrap to dispose of it for free?

    Wrapping paper that’s not sparkly, metallic, or has a plastic coating (that’s you can scrunch up easily) can be recycled in your domestic recycling bin. Or you can take it to a public recycling area – found in many supermarkets and town centres. Non-recyclable paper can be put in your general waste bin at home or taken to the tip.

    Any businesses disposing of wrapping paper need to arrange commercial waste collection by licensed waste carriers. This is essential to get rid of your waste in line with relevant regulations. Contact us today to learn more and arrange collection of your wrapping paper waste.

  • What are some facts about wrapping paper?

    Some facts about wrapping paper are that:

    • The average UK household goes through four rolls of wrapping paper per year.
    • In the UK consumers use an estimated to 227,000 miles of wrapping paper – a similar distance from the earth to the moon.
    • 1kg of wrapping paper is responsible for more than 3kg of CO2 emissions.

    50,000 trees are cut down each year to make enough wrapping paper.

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