UK households produce over 25% more waste during the festive period, partly due to the amount of excess packaging waste from gifts that’s thrown away after the big day.
Just because wrapping paper is branded as “paper” it doesn’t mean it’s always recyclable. That’s because gift wrap often contains much more than simply paper.
If your rubbish bin is contaminated with wrapping paper (and other waste) that can’t be recycled, the whole load could end up in landfill.
So, when you find your living room floor covered in waste after the pressie opening frenzy on Christmas Day, follow these top tips from Stephen Brownett-Gale at sustainable packaging experts, Lifestyle Packaging…
How can I tell if wrapping paper is recyclable?
The plainer the wrapper paper the better chance it’s recyclable, with traditional brown paper being the best candidate.
If the paper is highly decorated with images, patterns or glitter, don’t recycle it. The same goes for if the paper is too thin – signalling low-quality fibres that won’t survive the recycling process.
You can tell if a paper is high-quality by trying to tear it with your hands. If it rips without much force, then it’s too thin for recycling. You can also try the scrunch test – if it unravels when you let it go it should go in the general rubbish bin.
Do local authorities accept wrapping paper in recycling?
Even if you have the best intentions and separate your recyclable present waste at Christmas, the council might not take it.
Instead, they’ll ask for it to in with general rubbish or you have to take it to your local recycling centre instead. So, it’s always best to check first.
Can recycled paper be recycled again?
Wrapping paper made from recycled material is becoming more popular and widely available.
If the paper hasn’t been dyed or decorated, you can recycle it. However, it might not end up being quality paper again. That’s because every time paper is recycled its fibres become shorter and shorter. Once these become too short, the material is often turned into paper waste and used to create items such as newspapers or egg cartons.
Is sticky tape recyclable?
Standard sticky tape (or Sellotape) isn’t suitable for the recycling bin because it’s generally made from a type of plastic called polypropylene.
If a piece of wrapping paper has sticky tape on it, you can simply tear the area off and recycle the rest.
What happens if I recycle unrecyclable wrapping paper?
Although you have the best intentions, improper recycling (or “wishcycling”) has consequences for the whole waste management system, so only place leftover materials from Christmas gifts in the recycling if you’re 100% sure.
Recycling equipment is only designed to process recyclable materials – paper, cardboard, plastic, and metal. Everything else gets in the way of a smooth, efficient process. Employees still have to hand-pick the line for materials that are not recyclable. The more non-recyclable materials make it onto the line, the harder they have to work to spot things that are not recyclable.
It also means non-recyclable materials must get transferred from the recycling facility to the landfill. That’s an extra trip that could have been avoided if the non-recyclable material had been put in the right bin to begin with.