It’s time we all gave serious thought to how we wrap our gifts
Published: 7 December 2021
Before you buy your wrapping paper this year, please remember that most wrapping paper can’t be recycled.
It's such poor quality that it doesn't make pulp. Its fibres are too short and it turns into a sludge that can't be formed into new paper.
Also, some wrapping paper is contaminated with glitter and foil, which the paper mills definitely don't want.
So, like in previous years, in Exeter we won't be able to take wrapping in the green bin this Christmas.
If we sent wrapping paper off to the mill with our normal paper, it would limit the recyclability of the entire load. It definitely couldn’t then be recycled into quality newsprint.
Moreover, the paper mill wouldn’t give us very much for any of it, affecting income for public services.
The UK gets through an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year, according to the GWP Group. Even if it were recyclable, which it isn’t, that’s still a lot of single-use paper.
Greenpeace estimates that 1KG of wrapping paper can cost up to 3.5KG of carbon emissions during production alone. So that isn’t including transportation to the shop or our travel to buy it, or the collection and disposal of the waste.
And then of course we must consider where the paper comes from in the first place. DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) suggests that 50,000 trees are cut down each year to make wrapping paper and gift bags.
Here in Exeter we took the decision a few years ago to ask people not to put their wrapping paper out for recycling. It just causes too many problems.
Attempting to recycle something that is largely unrecyclable is not a viable use of fuel and energy – electrical and human. Picking wrapping paper off the conveyor belts after Christmas can cause our workers to miss other more recyclable items.
We CAN, however, take brown paper. You can even print it with inks or water-based paints. You could also use newspaper or old comics. Try to keep tape to a minimum and don't put any ribbons or string in the green bin (keep what you can of these for reuse).
But the most sustainable options are reusable gift boxes and cloth wraps. These can be given as part of the gift or, if they’re staying in your home, stored away for use next year.
The beauty of giving gifts in reusable wrapping is that it creates either a circular gift-wrap economy or a ‘pay it forward’ situation, with each recipient able to pass the wrapping back next year with their own gift or send it on to someone new who can then use it in turn.
It’s the gift wrap that keep on giving.