Gift wrap waste disposal and recycling

As we approach the festive season there are a number of ways we can be less wasteful and more eco-friendly. One way is through the use of gift wrap. Lots of gift wrap inherently isn’t recyclable and will end up in landfills, but there are alternatives and changes that you can make to reduce landfill waste.

Gift wrap waste disposal and recycling

Who invented gift wrap?

Evidence of wrapping paper dates back to the 2nd century BC in China. Back then monetary gifts were wrapped in a kind of envelope called chih pao. Centuries later the Hall brothers, the founders of Hallmark Cards (Rollie and Joyce Hall), 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?

Different types of wrapping paper have different components. The paper from wrapping paper comes from paper produced in wood mills made from wood pulp from softwood trees. The wood pulp is then bleached. The pulp is squeezed through heavy rolls to expel the moisture and is then passed over heated rollers to continue the drying process. This product then has the design put onto it with inks. Some glossier or metallic wrapping paper will contain Mylar, which is a plastic film coated with aluminium.

Disposing of gift wrap

Different gift wraps can be disposed of in different ways. The matte gift paper with no glitter or glossy covering can be thrown in the recycling bin (provided tags and bows are removed first). Metallic wrapping papers can’t be recycled 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.

Recycle Now have a campaign to help people decide whether or not to recycle their gift wrap called the scrunch test. If when you scrunch the paper it crumples up easily then it is likely recyclable, if it was more resistant to scrunching then it is likely not recyclable.

What happens to gift wrap once it has been disposed of

This depends on whether the paper is recyclable or not. If the paper is recycled then it will be taken to the recycling centre where and contaminants are removed from it. It will then be sorted into the relevant grade of paper and stored for processing. It will be 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 paper is not recyclable then it will go to landfill, where it will stay or be incinerated to produce energy.

Problems with wrapping paper waste

If the wrapping paper in question is not recycled and is instead sent to landfills then it takes up landfill space and takes a long time to decompose. In the UK, we send 5 million tonnes of paper to landfill every year which takes up animal habitats, contaminates soils, water and more.

Alternatives to wrapping paper

Apart from switching to recyclable paper, you can also prevent disposal issues by using traditional newspapers, maps or brown paper. There are also brands creating fabric, reusable gift wrap. You can also get creative and look around your house, using alternatives like inside out cleaned crips bags for example. Another alternative is to use baskets to create hampers.

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

There are several creative ways to use used wrapping paper for art projects, such as scrapbooking and collages. You can cover notebooks in it or use it to make confetti. There are numerous ways that you can use your imagination to give your used wrapping paper a new life.

What are the costs associated with disposing of wrapping paper?

To recycle wrapping paper, you would need to first have a recycling bin. For the paper that goes to landfill, there is a landfill tax.

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

None sparkly, metallic and scrunchable gift wrap which can be recycled can be put in your domestic recycling bin, or taken to a public recycling area, these can be found in many supermarkets and town centres. Non-recyclable paper can be put in your bin at home or taken to the tip.

The way to dispose of gift wrap is completely dependent on the type of gift wrap. If it is matte paper and easy to scrunch then it can be recycled, if it is metallic, contains glitter, or has a glossy feel the likelihood it that is not recyclable and will need to be thrown in general waste or repurposed.

Facts about wrapping paper

– The average UK household goes through 4 rolls of wrapping paper per year.

– In 2016 the amount of wrapping paper UK consumers are estimated to have used was enough to wrap around the earth 22 times.

– 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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