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As the festive season approaches, so do ideas of gift giving. It can be a joy to present a loved one with a token of your affection or some holiday cheer. You might be someone who gives a lot of thought to buying or making sustainable and environmentally sound gifts already. Perhaps you have also shunned the traditional gift wrap and opted for a less wasteful solution.

You might be aware that there are lots of ways to give and share the spirit of the season without spending a bunch of money on stuff people don’t want or need that is wrapped in a ton of paper that ends up in the landfill. However, despite your efforts, you might still end up having piles of wrapping paper, tags, and greeting cards to contend with from well-intentioned loved ones.

If you find yourself knee-deep in gift wrap this holiday, don’t panic. Also, don’t stick it all in the trash can, but don’t toss it all in the recycle bin, either.

What’s the Problem with Wrapping Paper?

Source: Recycle Now/YouTube

The USA produces about 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper per year, and it’s estimated that about half of it ends up in landfills. Why don’t people just recycle it all? Well, as it turns out, a lot of the wrapping paper we use isn’t recyclable at all and, unless it is reused, has no other destination but the landfill.

Just because it has paper in the title doesn’t mean that it is paper. Lots of gift wrap these days is shiny, glittery, and textured in a way that makes it non-recyclable. Often these types of gift wrap have plastic or metallic coatings that prevent them from being recycled. The same is true for greeting cards and gift tags.

According to the UK’s Recycle Now campaign, one way to check to see if your wrapping paper is recyclable or not is to screw it up in a ball. If it stays in a ball all crumpled up, it is likely true paper and can be recycled. If it resists in any way, it is likely to have metal or plastic in it and should not be put in the recycle bin. You can also tear the paper to determine if there is plastic involved.

If in doubt, you shouldn’t engage in wishful recycling, or ‘wishcycling‘. One bad piece of ‘trash’ in the recycling can contaminate a whole batch making it entirely unrecyclable.

What Is the Alternative?

So, you have a pile of ribbons, bows, wrapping paper, gift tags, and greeting cards in front of you, and it’s time to get it out of the living room. What on earth are you going to do with it all?

Wrapping Paper- As long as you didn’t tear into your gift like a crazed wild thing, there could be a good amount of reclaiming to be done here. Recyclable or not, smooth out any reasonably untorn paper and cut off the sticky tape. Aside from using this paper again to wrap something next year, there are a few crafts to be made from it. You can also keep it on hand to use as packing paper instead of bubble wrap.

If you have wrapping paper before you that you have used a bunch of times, and it is simply just time to say goodbye, make the right bin choice if it can be recycled, great. If not, then sadly, it just has to be binned!

Remember, if you have to get wrapping paper, before buying it, try to make sure that it is marked 100% recycled or recyclable.

Source: Recycle Now/YouTube

Ribbons and Bows- Unless you have a ribbon made from 100 percent cotton that could be ultimately composted, you will likely have a bunch of bows and ribbons made from mixed synthetic materials that cannot be recycled. Sad, but true.

Still, you don’t have to chuck this stuff away right off the bat. Due to their durable material, these can be reused again and again. At least keep them from the landfill for as long as possible. They for sure can go back onto gifts but also think about making them into tree decorations or tieing them around wreaths.

Source: The Daily DIYer/YouTube

Greeting Cards and Tags- To be fair, these days, most greeting cards will let you know if they are recyclable or not on the back. However, assuming that this is not going to be true 100% of the time, there are a few things to look out for.

Like the gift wrap, any cards that are covered in glitter, foil, or appear to have a plastic coating will not be recyclable. If you have one with no recycle mark, but it tears easily and is not covered in the aforementioned items, it will likely be plain paper.

That said, knowing that recycling is not the be-all and end-all of saving planet Earth, keeping those cards out of either bin for as long as possible is a better choice. Thankfully, there are loads of fun things that can be done with used greeting cards from making them into new shiny greeting cards or folding them into gift boxes, to cutting them up for decoupage projects.

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