Gift wrap is often last on the list and gets grabbed in a hurry, but change is happening this year as more become aware of curbing waste and reducing or recycling what we use.
A huge amount of wrapping paper is wasted at Christmas. Defra estimated that it would be enough to wrap up Guernsey, and if we all recycled just half of the 8,000 tonnes produced we’d save 25,000 trees.
You may think that all gift wrap can be recycled, but anything printed with foil or glitter can only be binned. Luxury versions are problematic as they are often dyed, laminated or contain additives such as gold colouring and plastics.
When unwrapping presents, do the 'scrunch test': scrunch a piece of wrapping paper into a ball - if it stays in a ball it can be recycled. Do remove any sticky tape still attached, as anything with Sellotape on will just end up being incinerated or go to landfill.
This isn’t meant to be a miserable eco-grinch festive experience. We all love giving a beautifully presented gift, so enjoy discovering new ways to wrap with our favourite options below:
- Look for ‘recyclable’ and the FSC mark (Forest Stewardship Council) if buying paper.
- Go full trad with brown paper tied up with string, ribbon or coloured paper twine. Use sprigs of herbs, cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices, pinecones, candy canes or Christmas tree cuttings bundled up as decorations too.
- Use stencils and water-based poster paints for DIY festive designs. Traditional rubber stamps plus water-based inkpads also work well.
- Upcycle old magazines, maps or children's drawings as quirky giftwrap.
- Clear sticky tape is made from a type of plastic called polypropylene and is non-recyclable. Try washi tape, brown paper tape or picture framing tape as plastic free, biodegradable alternatives.
Think outside of the gift wrap box
Avoiding recycling altogether is a growing gift wrap trend, and much cheaper in the long run. We have treasured Christmas tree ornaments used every year, so why not a reusable gift wrap collection for family gifting? From low cost and upcycled, to readymade reusables, these lovely ideas can get you started:
Use washed and ironed fabric offcuts and get inspired by some knotted gift wrap ideas online – for inspiration see furoshiki, a traditional Japanese way of carrying and covering objects.
Lush have long been high street pioneers of furoshiki, selling recycled, organic and vintage fabric squares.
Make the outside part of the gift by using a vintage scarf or tea towel – Radical Teatowels donate to good causes with every purchase
Not keen on fancy folding? Bags of Ethics use designer print on drawstring bags that are ethically made and can be reused a whopping 5,000 times!
WragWrap make reusable gift bags but if you miss the rustle of opening paper also stock an innovative ‘crackle fabric’ that sounds similar but can be reused many times.
Lastly, if you do any card making to go with your presents, using eco glitter is an easy swap that cuts out microplastics from your crafting. Alternatively, send a personalised e-card like these from Friends of the Earth – the cards are free, but you can turn yours into a surprise gift by adding a donation too.
Ready to shop? Read our Wicked Leeks Ethical Gift Guide 2021 for inspiration - it's packed full of our favourite small and ethical brands.