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Is Wrapping Paper Recyclable? Try the Scrunch Test to Find Out

Not sure if your wrapping paper is recyclable? We've got you covered.

Written by
Kylie Fuller
November 16, 2021

Did you know Americans create 25% more garbage between Thanksgiving and New Year's than any other time of year? That's an extra 1 million tons of trash produced each week. The holiday season may be the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also an extremely wasteful time in our consumer economy.

A lot of our holiday waste comes from a beloved tradition: gift-giving. About 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper ends up in a landfill every year. An easy way to cut down on paper waste is to recycle wrapping paper. However, not all wrapping paper is created equal.

Some varieties of wrapping paper are recyclable, others aren't. So how do you know whether your wrapping paper is recyclable or not? We've got answers.

Can I Recycle Wrapping Paper?

The short answer: Maybe.

Not all wrapping paper can be recycled. Determining which kinds you can send to the recycling facility can be difficult, which is why many paper recycling mills are a nightmare after the holidays.

According to Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association, many mills are overwhelmed with a mixture of papers that are hard to separate. For this reason, some recyclable paper gets sent to the landfill, which is why it's important to separate regular paper from wrapping paper beforehand.

How Do I Know Which Wrapping Paper Is Recyclable?

Any plain wrapping paper can be recycled, even if it has a design on it. But the fancier your wrapping paper is (think anything that's glittery, metallic, or uses foil or other textures), the harder it may be to recycle.

If you're not 100% sure whether your wrapping paper is recyclable or not, scrunch it. If it scrunches into a ball and stays scrunched (instead of flattening back out or unfolding), then it's probably pure paper and can be recycled. If it doesn't stay in a ball, it likely can't be recycled.

Any wrapping paper that can't be recycled can be repurposed. When gifts are opened carefully, the wrapping paper can easily be reused in the future.

Want to try the scrunch test? Watch the video below:

3 Sustainable Gift-Wrapping Options

Your holiday season doesn't have to be wasteful. Instead of using over-the-top wrapping paper covered in glitter and extra accessories, check out these creative alternatives that will make gift wrapping more eco-friendly—and more fun, too!

Here, we've included three simple ways to use less wrapping paper this holiday season.

1. Reuse Old Wrapping Paper

If your family or friends (or you!) use embellished wrapping paper, save it so it doesn't go to waste. You can reuse the wrapping paper, or even use the old wrapping paper to create new, unique designs.

According to Stanford University, if every family wrapped just three presents in recycled materials, it would save enough wrapping paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

2. Use Simple Wrapping Paper

Of course, if you use pure paper wrapping paper, you don't have to worry about it going to the landfill—it's totally recyclable. If you want to add some decorative flair, utilize reusable bows and ribbons.

3. Try Non-Paper Alternatives

Who says gifts need wrapping paper? There are many paper alternatives that are reusable and fun. Old newspapers, scarves or towels, and tote bags are excellent options.

If you want to purchase something that will last a lifetime, try Furoshiki—traditional Japanese wrapping cloths that can be used over and over again. They come in all different colors and sizes, so you can use them beyond the holidays.