How our ignorance about wrapping paper is killing the environment.
We kind of know that wrapping paper isn’t great for the environment as most of us realise the wasteful aspect of buying something for the sole purpose of ripping it into pieces and throwing away minutes later, but paper is recyclable, isn’t it? What’s the big issue then? I’m glad you asked!
The problem is a bit more complicated unfortunately, but educating ourselves and others is the first step to tackling the issue.
We could wrap the Earth nine times around the equator with the wrapping paper used in the UK.
Wastefulness is indeed the most obvious aspect of it, but few realise the huge extent of it. Each year in the UK alone, we use enough wrapping paper to cover the Earth nine times round the equator. Let me let this sink in. Nine. Times. Round. That’s UK alone- now multiple it per every country that celebrates Christmas.
All this paper has to come from somewhere of course, so we’re talking of cutting down and harvesting it from trees, processing of wood into pulp and then disposal of it once we’ve opened our presents. All these three processes put an enormous strain on the environment and also on our pockets- the collection and recycling of the paper is a responsibility of our local councils who are often too overwhelmed with the mountains of rubbish ever year and not all of them will manage to take them to recycling spots.
Not all wrapping paper is actually paper.
To create shiny surfaces many manufacturers cover the surface in plastic which cannot be recycled and contributes to creating tons of landfill. Do not put this wrapping in paper in recycling as these will have to be removed anyway and you’ll only be adding more strain to the already overworked waste management companies.
If you’re buying glitter-covered wrapping paper you might as well eat it now as it will probably end up in your stomach anyway.
Glitter- this might be one of the most innocent-looking killers of - and - on the Planet. Glitter not only cannot be recycled, but also contains plastic microbeads that end up in seas in oceans. These in turn get eaten by marine life such as fish and seals and as you might imagine, eating plastic is not great for these creatures. In minor cases it creates indigestion, in larger quantities leads to death. We also wrote more about it here.
Some of the fish end up on our plates… so if you’re buying glitter-covered wrapping paper or cards you might as well skip the middle man and eat them now, as they’ll probably end up in your stomach sooner or later. Bon apetit.
Ribbons are another not-so-obvious and underestimated example. Most of them are made of plastic which cannot be recycled and/ or are covered in glitter, which we all end up eating. Since they are light and relatively small, they also end up polluting our oceans but are also easy for animals to get entangled in and end up suffocating hundreds if not thousands of creatures every year.
If you have Sellotape stuck on your recycable wrapping paper, it won’t be recycled.
Then there’s also Sellotape, which is made of polypropylene that absolutely cannot be recycled. In fact, even if your wrapping paper is fully recyclable but you have a bit of sticky tape stuck to it, it will contaminate the whole lot and won’t be able to be recycled. Sellotape is in fact named one of the most terrible products for the environment. Would you have guessed that?
Are there any alternatives?
It’s not all doom. Once we’re armed with the knowledge of what the culprits are, we know what to avoid and thus find more eco-friendly substitutes:
Use recyclable wrapping paper - if it has been recycled before, then as a rule of thumb it will be recyclable. You can also do a ‘scrunch test’ - if you scrunch it into a ball and the paper stays scrunched together, it’s most probably recyclable. If it bounces back, sorry, bad news.
Use reusable gift bags and gift wraps.
Use fabric gift wraps which are not only full recyclable, but can be re-used for years to come. You can make your own one or buy a ready one from Wrapuccino.
Newspapers are recyclable, you can freely wrap in old newspapers and promotional magazines.
Whatever you do, AVOID GLITTER.
Use organic, compostable ribbons or make your own ones from fabric.
Find alternatives to sellotape. Bonus: you don’t need sticky tape to wrap with fabric as you simply tie it together.
Spread the word- most people would choose the alternatives if they knew how bad all the elements that go into the most thoughtful gifts can be!
We all want to do a little bit of good this season, why not start from little steps to a more sustainable Christmas. And remember, Santa wouldn't want to kill the Planet, and (most probably) you don’t want it either.