Unwrap eco friendly gift wrapping recommendations here!
Christmas is a time for celebrations. But it is also a period of increased waste. On average, the amount of waste produced over the Christmas holidays is 30% higher than the rest of the year.
It’s been 20 years since Rowan Atkinson highlighted the trend of excessive gift-wrapping in Love Actually. You’d think something might have changed since then — but manufacturers still sell millions of rolls of unsustainable gift wrap to this day.
Wrapping paper and sellotape are the biggest contributors to the pile of holiday waste. Most festive wrapping, though glittery and colorful, is unfortunately really bad for the environment. Each year, people throw away over 227,000 miles of wrapping paper, a distance that almost reaches from here to the moon.
Something has to change. This starts with us understanding the real implications of Christmas wrapping paper and committing to small, impactful shifts, to reduce the pile of wrapping collected after Christmas morning.
The environmental cost of Christmas gift wrapping
There is a common misconception that all wrapping paper can be recycled. Due to its misleading name, many people assume that it's fine to throw wrapping paper directly into the paper recycling bin. It’s paper after all. Or is it?
The truth is, a lot of Christmas wrapping cannot be recycled due to the glitter, foil, or fancy laminations used. For example, glitter is made from tiny specs of plastic that recycling machines can’t separate, ultimately contaminating the paper recycling process.
Even wrapping paper that’s made just from paper — and so can theoretically be recycled — still carries a huge environmental cost. Experts estimate each year over 50,000 trees are cut down for Christmas wrapping paper, generating over 3 kg of CO2 for every kilogram of paper produced.
Our general approach to wrapping also needs to be amended. People use around 40 million rolls of sellotape each Christmas to wrap gifts. Manufacturers typically make sellotape from polypropylene, a non-recyclable plastic. Even if your wrapping paper is recyclable, if it contains sellotape or ribbon, it will ultimately end up in landfill.
Yes paper takes up to six weeks to decompose in a landfill, but plastic or foil can take hundreds of years. It means your wrapping might be contaminating the environment for many Christmases to come.
How to wrap your gifts sustainably
Despite what it sounds like, we’re not a team of Scrooges here at Ocean Bottle. The majority of Christmas wrapping paper isn’t sustainable, but feel-good festive alternatives do exist. By knowing what to look out for, you can ensure your wrapping is good for the planet. So how do you wrap your gifts with sustainability in mind?
1. Know how to spot unsustainable wrapping
Familiarise yourself with all the factors that make wrapping paper non-recyclable. Most plain paper can be recycled even if there’s print on it. However, anything metallic, glittery, or textured is generally considered non-recyclable.
2. Reuse old wrapping paper
Business Waste estimates that Brits throw away 108 million rolls of wrapping paper each Christmas. That’s a lot of wrapping. However, most gift wrap is high quality and reusable. By collecting wrapping paper that you’ve received throughout the year, you can help to keep your Christmas sustainable. By reusing paper, you’re not only reducing waste but also demand. Not got a stock of reused wrapping paper at the ready? Don’t worry, you can make a start this Christmas so that for Christmas 2024 you’re stocked up!
3. Buy recycled paper
Support Christmas recycling initiatives by purchasing wrapping paper already made from recycled materials. Several businesses create wrapping paper from recycled materials. Companies such as Re-wrapped use 100% recycled paper to create beautiful wrapping and gift cards. WHSmith has also set up a Reuse or Recycle Wrap Collection that features wrapping options that are kind to the planet.
4. Ditch the sellotape
Sticky tape is one of the most-purchased items over the Christmas period. Several sustainable alternatives to sellotape can also add to the aesthetics of your gifts. Twine or string are the most common and easy to reuse or recycle. Alternatively, you can use biodegradable tape, but you’ll need to check whether your local authority accepts that in recycling.
5. Find alternative ways to gift your presents
In a survey, around 52% of Americans admitted that they find wrapping gifts to be the worst part of Christmas. So why not find an alternative way to gift your presents?
Consider wrapping your gifts in cloth like the Japanese Furoshiki tradition. You could also repurpose old jars, boxes, and baskets, or even ditch wrapping paper altogether. So many products are already beautifully boxed, so why don’t you let the original packaging shine?
Each Ocean Bottle comes in a box made from 100% recycled cardboard that is 100% recyclable too. The packaging is sourced from Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) suppliers that support responsible management of the world's forests. Tie the box with a bow or doodle on some festive designs and its ready to go under the Christmas tree!
Dealing with wrapping paper responsibly
You may have taken your wrapping to reduce waste seriously, but what happens when you receive gifts on Christmas Day that haven’t? If you’re gifted non-recyclable wrapping paper, there are steps you can take to reduce the environmental impact.
- Avoid tearing the paper so you can reuse the wrapping again.
- Perform a ‘scrunch test’. If the paper remains scrunched up, this means it's probably paper and should be recyclable.
- Remove the sellotape from the wrapping paper to help the recycling process.
While we should all be encouraged to recycle what wrapping paper we can, you need to be sure it is, in fact, recyclable. If you put non-recyclable wrapping paper in the paper recycling bin, you could contaminate the entire load.
According to Recycle Now, some local authorities may collect wrapping paper for recycling, while others don’t. It depends on which paper recycling mill your local authority works with. Check your local council website to be sure.