All Your Christmas Shopping Wrapped Up? What About The Giftwrap?


fabric giftwrapI’ve done most of my shopping now (phew!) and am pleased that I have managed to keep to either practical, long-lasting, experience or charitable gifts for the most part.  Now it’s on to task 2 – the giftwrap!

I’ll never forget the Monday after Christmas last year.  I had dutifully sorted all my used wrapping paper into a blue recycling bag and watched for the recycling truck, so I could go out and let the guy know that it was all just wrapping paper to go for recycling.  He didn’t take it!  Instead we had a 5 minute chat about the fact that most regular wrapping paper cannot be easily recycled so they are instructed not to take it.  Eeek!!  Instead, later that day I watched it all get taken for landfill.

It’s something that’s haunted me for most of this year and in particular because as somebody who likes to think of themselves as relatively eco-friendly (we have reusable grocery bags, do the litterless lunch thing, only put out garbage once every 2 weeks…), somehow I didn’t know this at all.  I was completely oblivious to the fact that gift wrap couldn’t be recycled.

It seems I’m not alone!  Talking to friends, many, in fact most, are just as shocked as I am to learn the same news.  Indeed today, I went shopping for fabric to make gift bags for us to use for our gift wrapping this Christmas and ran into a lady in the store also buying fabric for the same reason.  However, her motivation was to make the wrapping easier (an extra-benefit that I’m looking forward to reaping this year!), but she had no idea either about wrapping paper and neither did another customer who had got chatting with her.

I have double-checked and found the Recyling Council of BC to have great information on its site on this issue.  According to their information:

“In Canada alone the annual waste from gift-wrap and shopping bags equals about 545,000 tonnes. Unlike newspapers and flyers, wrapping paper cannot be easily recycled. This is due to the heavy inks, glitter, foil and sticky tape that generally come with it. Before placing your wrapping paper in your curbside or community recycling bins, make sure that it is 100% paper”.

This would suggest that if you used non-glitter, non-foil wrap and removed all the tape, you might be able to recycle it, but given the discussion with my curbside collector last year, I’m seriously doubting that they would take it still.

I now feel strongly that we need to re-think gift wrapping.  If you don’t want to sew bags, then look at using fabric in the way you do wrapping paper and simply tie it with ribbon, find ways to make the gift itself part of the wrapping (think scarves, tablecloths, towels etc) or look again at gift cards and vouchers for experiences/services that can be popped into an envelope instead!


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