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November 16, 2021

Did you know that Aussies use more than150,000 kilometres of wrapping paper each Christmas? 

As you can imagine, most of this wrapping paper winds up at the landfill. Unfortunately, even the stuff that doesn’t may not be landing in the right facility either. 

So how do you dispose of the colourful gift wrap your Christmas presents are so festively wrapped in? Worry not! We’ve got all the responsible disposal advice you need right here in this gift wrap guide! 

Follow along to learn what to do with your used gift wrap during the holidays as well as 6 sustainable swaps to reduce your gift wrapping waste altogether!

What to Do With Gift Wrap

Whether you receive a gift from outside the household or you’re still using up last years holiday wrapping, it’s important to recognise that not all wrapping belongs in your recycling bin. 

The most common wrapping waste culprits include:

  • Wrapping Paper
  • Gift Bags
  • Bows and Ribbons
  • Cards
  • Gift Boxes
  • Tissue Paper

So what can you recycle, what can you compost, and what belongs in your kerbside waste bin? Let’s take a closer look!

Is Wrapping Paper Recyclable?

Wrapping paper is perhaps the most commonly confused wrapping material for disposal. 

It’s paper - so that means it belongs in your recycling bin, right?! Well… it depends. 

Most wrapping papers are actually finished with plastics. This is where fancy finishes like glossy, metallic, or even velvety textures come from. Instead of just paper, these festive wraps have been decorated with materials that simply don’t belong in your recycling bin. 

So what can you do with them? 

Our first recommendation is to avoid these textures in favour of regular paper wrap. Of course, if you’ve been given a gift with the fancy ‘papers’, the next best thing is to gently unwrap your gift and reuse the paper! When it’s no longer reusable, these papers belong in your regular rubbish bin. 

What about the ones without plastic coating? Go ahead and pop these ones right intoyour recycling bin! A good test to ensure your paper is in fact paper is to use the scrunch test. If your wrapping paper can be made into a ball (and stay that way) then it’s a safe bet for recycling! 

How to Dispose of Gift Bags

Similar to your wrapping paper, your gift bags are only recyclable if they don’t contain any of those fancy finishes and textures. Fortunately, gift bags are one of the easiest wrapping items to reuse!

If the attached name card already has writing in it, simply snip it off and stash any salvageable gift bags into your wrapping collection. When the bag is no longer presentable, toss it in the rubbish.

What to Do With Bows and Ribbons

Bows and ribbons are perfect for dressing up your gifts to impress. Unfortunately, most bows are made with plastics, staples, tape, and glue - all of which do not belong in the recycling bin. 

Ribbons, on the other hand, may be made from recyclable materials, but they aren’t necessarily welcome at your nearest recycling plant.

Because ribbons are so long and thin, they can get caught up in machines and cause major problems pretty darn quick. 

Fortunately, both of these decorative elements aresuper reusable. Simply re-stick bows to gifts usingplastic-free tape and smooth out those fancy ribbons until they can’t be salvaged anymore! At the end of their life, all of these decorative elements belong in the bin. 

Can I Recycle Cards?

You’ve probably already guessed that the answer to this question is another big fat ‘it depends’. 

Again, the elements that make cards look pretty and feel unique such as glossy finishes and textures are often made with non-paper fibres. This means they will need to go into your bin instead of recycling. Of course, you can always find fun ways toreuse these cards such as trimming them into custom gift tags for your future present giving! 

Cards made completely from paper on the other hand can be recycled! If you’re looking for a more sustainable card for your Christmas gifting,seed cards from Sow n’ Sow are a great recycled alternative to traditional Christmas cards!

Gift Box Recycling

When it comes to responsible gift wrap, boxes are by far one of the easiest materials to dispose of. This is because almost all gift boxes can be confidently placed into your recycling bin (after reuse of course)!

Just remember to flatten your boxes before placing them in your recycling bin and to remove any plastic tape! If you’ve gone withplastic-free tape, go ahead and leave your sustainable sticky friend in place. 

What’s the Issue with Tissue?

Tissue is a deceiving material. Although itfeels papery, tissue ‘paper’ can’t actually be recycled like normal paper. Fortunately, it can be composted. The catch is that it needs to be plain tissue with no sparkles or confetti. 

Reuse tissue papers for as long as possible, then simply tear them into small pieces and place them in yourhome compost when they’re looking worn and torn. 

Sustainable Solutions for Beautiful Gift Wrapping

While disposing of your gift wrapping responsibly is a giant step in the right direction, the best way to care for our planet is to reduce our waste altogether.

Here are our 6 favourite zero-waste or low waste alternatives to try!

1. Paper Perfection

As we mentioned above, the best course to take with your wrapping paper is to skip the fancy finishes and textures. 

A simple solution is to use old newspapers, repurpose your recycled papers, or even opt for a brown paper bag! 

If you’re worried these paper packages won’t be festive enough under your tree, get creative with colours by using toxin-free paints to dress them up. If you’re not particularly crafty,folded wrapping paper from Earth Greetings are a responsible yet beautiful way to dress your gifts with recycled material and toxin-free ink! Check out how we made the dried orange below here.

Plastic-Free-Gift-Wrapping

2. Festive Fabric

If you don’t have any papers on hand, turn to your old clothes or fabric scraps for a fun and festive fabric wrap! 

Tie up yourfabric creations with twine, scrap fabric ribbon, or whatever else you can find to keep your gifts looking fresh and fab under the tree! The best part about fabric wrap is that you can collect it all and reuse it next year! 

Shop our reusable fabric gift wrap here.

Reusable-Fabric-Gift-Wrap

3. Reusable Bags

Take reusing gift bags one step further by packing your gifts into reusable grocery bags, tote bags, or even reusable produce bags!

These clever bags will come in handy again and again making them an affordable and practical option for gift wrap!

4. Cardboard Boxes!

Whether you pack your gifts into the delivery boxes they arrived in or reuse other cardboard boxes, these recyclable beauties are always a fantastic option for hiding away your special surprises! 

5. Elements from Nature

Perfect for dressing up any of your sustainable wrapping swaps! Use flowers from your garden, grass braided into ribbon, or any other nature elements to wrap and beautify your gifts. 

The best part about these decorations is that they can be composted after the gifts are opened!

If you’re looking to make a long-lasting impact, you could evenpress your flowers for a preserved and meaningful card, gift tag, or ‘natural bow’.

6. Part of the Gift

Depending on your gift, you may be able to use parts of the present to wrap the whole thing up!

Find clever folding methods for clothing, pack your cosmetic gifts into a pretty makeup pouch, or hold it all together with clever and usefulbeeswax wraps! The sky is the limit and not a single piece will hit the rubbish!

Your Gift Wrap Guide for Zero-Waste Wrapping

From how to dispose of your gift wrap to alternatives to cut wrapping waste altogether, we hope you found everything you needed and more in this zero-waste wrapping guide. If you're keen to make an even bigger impact this Christmas, check out our other tips and DIYs that reduce your waste this Christmas here.

Have more sustainable ways to wrap your gifts? Let us know your favourite waste-free alternatives and don’t forget to share this post with your friends to keep your entire gifting circle as sustainable as possible! 


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