Each year, Americans spend more than $12.7 billion on gift wrap, which is a wild figure when you stop to consider that wrapping paper gets torn to shreds in under 60 seconds — it’s designed to get thrown away, and yet we spend so much money on it.
An estimated 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper gets produced in the U.S. annually. And each year, we send about 2.3 million pounds — half of all the gift wrap made in one year — to our overflowing landfills.
We throw enough wrapping paper away annually to circle the world a whopping nine times, Wrappily claims.
How to reduce gift wrap waste
You can tell wrapping paper isn’t recyclable if it has flashy features such as glitter, foil, lamination, and other non-paper decorative embellishments.
In addition to wrapping paper, plastic paper bows with adhesive backing and ribbon are also not recyclable. Instead of throwing these away, you can save them for next year’s gifts or decorations.
Another easy trick for determining whether wrapping paper is recyclable or not is the scrunch test. Crumble up the wrapping paper into a ball. If it keeps its shape, it’s recyclable. If it springs open, it can’t be recycled.
If you’re still unsure whether or not wrapping paper is recyclable, avoid wishcycling by throwing it away.
And before throwing any wrapping paper into your recycling bin, remove all tape and stickers from the gift wrap.
Gift wrap alternatives
Wrapping gifts is a holiday season tradition, so we understand how difficult it might be to ditch the gift wrap.
If you want to try to make the holidays and gift giving less wasteful, you have an array of festive wrapping alternatives.
Simple swaps for your holiday wrapping are recyclable and kraft wrapping paper.
One brand of recyclable wrapping paper is Wrappily, which uses neighborhood newspaper printers to create fun, soy-based ink prints for sheets of wrapping paper.
Kraft paper is another easy and minimalistic wrapping option. One roll of kraft paper often replaces several rolls of wrapping paper, so it’s also cost-effective. A fun and festive activity — especially for kids — is whipping out the art and craft supplies to decorate kraft-wrapped presents.
If you want to save money (or repurpose materials) you can always upcycle newspaper or paper grocery bags into wrapping paper.
There are also wrapping material options you can invest in that will withstand several holiday seasons and lessen your contributions to landfills.
Using fabric and the Japanese Furoshiki method, you can easily wrap any present (and make it look very fancy). You can also make a gift out of the fabric too, such as a scarf, head wrap, or bandanna.
Another option is using decorative boxes. Though these boxes may be pricey, they’re worth it when they save you time and frustration when trying to wrap gifts, and the boxes can be recycled afterward.
Whichever method you choose, try incorporating these alternatives to save money and keep wrapping paper out of landfills.