It’s a Wrap | How to Create Less Waste when Wrapping those Christmas Presents!


In the grand scheme of things choosing which wrapping paper you buy may not seem that important, but did you know that in the UK alone we use an incredible 227,000 miles of the stuff every Christmas – that’s enough to go 9 times around the equator. The vast majority of that will, of course, be thrown straight into the bin, and whilst instinctively you might think paper can be recycled, a great deal of it can’t be or won’t be. That’s why we thought we’d share a few ideas on how you can make your wrapping paper a more resourceful choice.  

Shop Carefully & With Knowledge

Most people assume that wrapping paper in any form is recyclable, and just throw it into their recycling bin, sellotape, ribbon and all. The truth is that only certain wrapping papers are easy to recycle, so it is important to know what you are buying – so many wrapping papers are shiny and covered in glitter, and as pretty as that all is, they are generally in no way recyclable. Avoid that glitter at all costs!

So how do we know whether the paper is buying is recyclable or not? Well, the simple scrunch test is the most popular method recommended by local authorities and recycling companies. Check out this video to see it in action, but broadly speaking if you scrunch up the wrapping paper, and it stays in a ball, then you can recycle it. If it springs back, it probably has plastic in it, and cannot be recycled.


There may also be a symbol on your wrapping paper packaging which will also help you identify whether or not that paper is recyclable. The safest code to buy is code #22 PAP which indicates that the product is made from paper. What you really want to avoid is code #81 PAP which indicates that the product is made of paper and plastic and therefore not recyclable.

You may also want to consider where the raw materials came from to make your wrapping paper. Have a look and see if your paper is made from FSC approved materials. Choosing FSC-certified wrapping paper means that the forest-based materials in the wrap have been responsibly sourced. And there are also quite a few wrapping papers out there made from recycled paper. More and more people are marking their product as such for obvious reasons.

As a general rule of thumb, it is best to keep it simple – no glitter, no sparkle, and no shiny plastic. It may sound dull, but there are other ways to add sparkle to your Christmas that are more biodegradable! That goes for gift tags and cards too, and remember when recycling your paper remove all of the embellishments and tape if possible.

I Can’t Recycle Wrapping Paper Where I Live!

There are a few local authorities who do say that they don’t recycle wrapping paper at all, but they are in the minority for sure. I see so many threads on Facebook that get this wrong so PLEASE check our list for details of your area.

If you really can’t recycle wrapping paper in your area then just buy the best you can – it will biodegrade over time or be used as fuel. Or think of ways that you can reuse your paper! My Nan always had a drawer full ready for next year. And of course, you can always get crafty.

Follow the Trend

So the good news is that Scandi is in this year, and that means we can all get away with wrapping our presents in brown or kraft paper! Brown paper is by all accounts better for the environment as it is often made from recycled materials and doesn’t have any printing inks on it. It also happens to be pretty cheap. This year there is a real trend for wrapping in brown paper and decorating your own with stamps, or whichever means you fancy. It can certainly look very beautiful…simplistic style. This is our favourite from The Every Day Kitchen

brown christmas wrapping paper

Those of you who are able to sew might even consider making your own paper or even fabric gift bags. Gift bags have a bit more longevity in them, plus they look great. We loved this tutorial from Bags of Love!

How To Make A Gift Bag From Wrapping Paper

Think Outside The Box & Go Reusable

So there is a standing joke in my family that we have had the same pieces of ribbon going backwards and forwards for about 15 years. I have a huge ribbon collection and some of it is quite old, but we do reuse it and it brings a smile.

So why not take the same approach with gift wrap. My partner in crime, Emily and I, have a piece of perpetual wrapping paper that we use for each other’s birthday presents – it’s a beautiful handmade piece from India that I could never bear to throw away.

So why not have a think about some longer-lasting alternatives like fabric wrap or gift boxes, that can be used over and over again. Fabric is definitely a popular choice for gift wrap this year as well. In Japan, Furoshiki wrapping cloths have been used to wrap gifts and other items for many centuries! You can pretty much use any fabric you like for this, and there are lots of tutorials to help you master on this noble art which actually uses less material than traditional methods as well!

If you are looking for something to invest in, Lush do a gorgeous range of fabric knot wraps and if you have a little Google around, you might be surprised by what you will find! We found this reusable gift wrap from Buy Me Once, which also happens to be made out of recycled bottles! Or check out Wragwrap who have an innovative and extensive range of reusable gift wraps, not to mention gift tag pouches.  And then there’s Lilywrap who have a really simple drawstring design which is surely guaranteed to save you time into the bargain. You can even buy plastic versions of reusable gift wrap, but that doesn’t sit quite so comfortably with us right now.

And if you’ve got some fabric scraps lying around from a needlework project, or even some old clothes or bags, you may be able to salvage enough fabric to create your own fabric gift bags. We absolutely loved this tutorial from Sew Very Easy on how to make fabric bags using a paper bag as a template – we are so doing this one!

Not only can you wrap your gifts, but you can create your own little matching gift tags! A good friend of ours has had a crack and they are great!

Get Thrifty

We could, of course, all save ourselves a lot of money and go back to basics! Why not wrap your gifts in some old magazines or newspapers? This can work perfectly well for smaller gifts, especially if you dress them up with some nice little embellishments. I’ve got some gorgeous envelopes that a little boy in my village made from old comics so if your gift is for a child, maybe you could find their favourite comic, or for dad, some good old-fashioned newspaper or an old map which are pretty easy to find in charity shops.

Whichever way you choose to go this year, we hope that we’ve at least demonstrated that there are options for every pocket and every lifestyle. Some take more time than others, but if you’ve got that time, then that can be a lot of the fun. If you’ve got other ideas you’d like to share, we’d love to hear them.

And Don’t Forget Your Bits and Bobs

Many places that do recycle wrapping paper would prefer it to come without the sellotape attached, so in order the avoid the laborious task of removing it, or making sure that somebody else who may not know doesn’t make that mistake, you may want to use kraft paper adhesive tape. It is readily available this year, including in our shop, and you don’t need to remove it.

kraft paper tape

But also consider your decoration – string, dried fruit, reusable items such as Christmas baubles, etc are a much better bet than curling ribbon (entirely made of plastic and unreusable) and plastic baubles. It is easy to avoid, and you might even want to go as far as drying your own oranges too! We can tell you how – I can’t believe how easy it is!

So there are the options – there are many, and surely enough for everyone to avoid the avalanche of unrecyclable materials out there. It’s such a small thing to address, and it can make such a huge difference!

For our exhaustive list of the best Christmas Cards to buy come on over to this blog post here!




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