Is wrapping paper recyclable near me?
5 Minute Read
According to earth911, “approximately 4.6 million lbs. of wrapping paper [are] produced in the U.S. each year,” and about 2.3 million pounds end up in the landfills.
That’s a lot of effing wrapping paper!
One of the top questions I get asked around the holidays is: is wrapping paper recyclable?
And the honest answer is: it depends.
Like any other sustainable question you might have, the answer is not a simple yes or no. It really depends on what the wrapping paper is made of, what it’s printed with, what it’s been mixed with, and also where you live. Let’s break it down, so you can navigate gift-giving and receiving without that overly confused look on your face.
Here’s the thing about wrapping paper…
If wrapping paper is made with just paper, then yes, it’s totally recyclable. But manufacturers like to put all kinds of stuff, especially plastic, into just about everything they can. And today, there’s all kinds of additives in wrapping paper, like glitter, metallic inks, dyes, and plastic, yes plastic. Many of these additives render wrapping paper unrecyclable.
How to test if wrapping paper is recyclable
Some sources, like BBC, say that an easy way to test if wrapping paper is recyclable is to scrunch it up and see what the wrapping paper does. If it stays scrunched up, then its likely recyclable. But if it’s unable to keep the shape you scrunched it into, then it’s not recyclable. This is because there’s too much other crap in there (for lack of a better phrase) and not enough salvageable paper. Here’s a visual to help you make the comparison.
Figuring out if wrapping paper is recyclable is a process of elimination
Even if your paper passes the scrunch test, additives like glitter (the actual bane of my existence) and metallic prints can still deem wrapping paper unrecyclable. So here’s a visual check list I put together for you. It breaks down all of the questions to ask to see if your wrapping paper is recyclable.
Is wrapping paper recyclable near me?
Where you live also determines whether wrapping paper is recyclable or not. For instance, in Kingston (where I’ve been living for the past year), they accept wrapping paper that is free of metallics, glitter, or foil. So if your wrapping paper is just paper, then they encourage you to recycle it by folding it into flat sheets and putting it in the recycling bin. They’ve actually done a great job of outlining what is and isn’t recyclable when it comes to the holiday season. From holiday cards, to ribbon, to gift bags and even waste that comes with your Christmas tree and other holiday decorations, they’ve laid out the guidelines very clearly. But keep in mind, this is specific to Kingston, NY.
Your local area might be different
It’s important to check what your local recycling facilities accept. Otherwise, you’re just creating more work for them by contaminating the recycling system. This makes the recycling process more expensive since it’s more intensive for them to sort through everything. So do your best to recycle right.
You can check out RecycleNation.com or How2Recycle.info to find out if wrapping paper is recyclable in your area. Both sites allow you to plug in your zip code along with the specific item you’re trying to recycle and show you what’s accepted in your local collection facility.
FYI tissue paper is (usually) not recyclable either
One thing that surprises a lot of people is when they find out that tissue paper is usually not accepted in recycling facilities. While it is made out of paper, its made out of a very low grade paper, which doesn’t old up well when recycled. So even though it’s technically recyclable, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze for recycling companies, which means it usually doesn’t get recycled. But with any recycling conundrum, you need to check with your local recycling facility to see what they accept.
BTW you gotta remove the tape and ribbon too!
So let’s say, you’ve somehow made it through all of the above criteria and your wrapping paper is actually recyclable. What next? You can’t throw it in the recycling bin just yet. First, you have to remove any scotch tape or ribbon from your eco friendly wrapping paper.
Just like the glitter and foil we talked about above, scotch tape and gift ribbon are also contaminants for the recycling process. So you have to remove them. Now I know this all sounds like a lotta friggin’ work for wrapping paper. And that’s because it is. But unfortunately it’s where we’re at in the flawed recycling systems we have. And that we’re currently stuck with. It would be great if all wrapping paper had to be recyclable or if we stuck to using reusable wrapping paper.
The importance of reusing before recycling…
When I was a kid, my grandmother from another mother carefully collected the wrapping paper we tossed during the gift opening frenzie. She’d flatten out the salvageable wrapping paper and fold it neatly to reuse another time. It didn’t matter if it was a bow, ribbon, bag or piece of wrapping paper. If it was salvageable, she would keep it.
Today, she’s still remembered, among her many other saint-like qualities, for reusing Christmas wrapping paper. Now I’m not sure if I got my practice of doing this from her or if I developed it as I became more aware of the waste factor that hovers around gift-giving these days. But I’m pretty sure it was her, since I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember.
I think her thrifty skills came out of being born over 100 years ago when “disposable” wasn’t really a thing. She knew she could stretch any resource 10 times over, simply because that’s what you did. I mean, why throw something out that’s perfectly good? And why spend money on something you already have and can reuse?
If you’re not buying in from the sustainability angle, then you definitely should from the money saving perspective.
When you reuse things and keep them around for longer, you don’t have to buy as much stuff. I find it so interesting how sustainability has become in-fashion, when really we’re just reverting back to the wisdom our elders knew and practiced. The wisdom that understands that resources aren’t infinite and we need to be mindful of how much we consume. That is, if we want to make sure our kids and grandkids can thrive for generations to come.
Now you already get from my not-so-short short story that if you can do it, reusing wrapping paper should always be your first line of attack. But if you can’t for a variety of reasons, then it’s important to ask: is this wrapping paper recyclable? And how can I make the most of it. And of course, there are other, more sustainable wrapping paper options.
Conclusion: Some wrapping paper is recyclable. Some isn’t
While there’s a good chunk of wrapping paper out there that’s not recyclable. There are many different ways to test out your wrapping paper to see if it can go in the recycling bin or not. There are also a ton of festive, sustainable wrapping paper options to for all your gifting needs. Just because your wrapping paper is eco friendly, doesn’t mean it has to be boring. See for yourself.