How to Recycle Gift Wrap

Wondering what to do with the piles of leftover paper? Here’s your guide.

Caitlin Murphree Miller
Newspaper Gift Wrap
Becky Luigart Stayner

Nobody wants to look like a thrifty grandmother at a party—shooing trash bag-welding helpers away from mountains of wrapping paper and ribbon in order to gather it up and recycle or reuse it—but recycling wrapping paper benefits the environment and your wallet. Remember this, as well: Often, the decision about whether or not something is recyclable is determined before you even purchase this year’s Christmas wrapping paper—so, consider these tips before you fill your cart with holiday gift wrap.

Wrapping Paper
It seems simple enough—it’s got “paper” in the name, for heaven’s sake—but unfortunately, much of today’s wrapping paper has other components mixed in, like foil and plastics, which are not recyclable. When buying paper, go for the simple stuff, such as basic craft paper and rolls without a shiny or sparkly coating; you might even consider using something like newspaper or old maps. These Christmas wrapping papers can be recycled in the usual paper bin in most communities. Some communities, however, refuse to recycle wrapping paper entirely, so check with your local recycling company before taking it out to the curb.

Decorative Trim
Unfortunately, the stuff that makes your gift pretty—ribbons, bows, and sparkly tinsel—is not recyclable. That said, ribbons and bows are absolutely reusable, and can be easily removed and stored for other gift-giving opportunities. Try buying higher-quality decorative trimmings, like simple satin, velvet, or grosgrain ribbon, which can often be found in bulk at wedding or event supply stores. Not only are these a chic and timeless choice for thoughtfully wrapped gifts, but they’ll also hold up nicely to repeating tying and untying.

Tissue Paper
The majority of tissue paper on the market today is already made from thin sheets of recycled paper, so during your post-Christmas purge, feel free to throw it in your recycling bin guilt free (or even compost it!). That said, tissue paper is also a readily reusable gift trimming, so consider folding yours up and storing it in a flat container until next year.

Gift Boxes & Bags
Cardboard boxes are easy: If you don’t plan to reuse it, anything made of cardboard can be taken out with your normal recycling. Gift bags, on the other hand, are more complicated, as they often contain a non-recyclable plastic coating and ribbons or cording that will need to be removed. Only buy gift bags that can easily be reused year after year—or, better yet, skip the gift bags entirely. Here are some tips for wrapping those odd-shaped presents.