Can I Recycle Christmas Wrapping Paper? The Answer: Sometimes

All that glitter may not be good when it comes to recycling wrapping paper in Nova Scotia and beyond.

I am sure you’re all too familiar with the pile of wrapping paper that continues to mound throughout Christmas morning, as family members either hastily or delicately unwrap their presents and contribute to the pile. The problem with wrapping paper is that it oftentimes is not recyclable:

  • sometimes it contains metal foils or glitter
  • sometimes it’s laminated
  • sometimes it’s too thin
  • sometimes it contains very high ink content

The problem arises because these foils, glues, and glitter are not recyclable and when the paper is too thin there is not enough fibre in it to recycle. It’s also important to note that gift bags, tape, ribbon and bows cannot be recycled either (for living at the North Pole, you would have thought Santa would be more environmentally conscious).

Many people think that because it is “paper” that it can be recycled, but what you may not know is the process in which paper is recycled. All recycled paper must be of a grade that allows it to be processed by the paper mills back into paper. The glitter can clog the machinery that makes paper, and if it gets into the finished product, it may be rejected by the end purchaser.

The easiest means to determine if a paper is recyclable is the ‘scrunch‘ test. If you can scrunch the paper in a ball with one hand then it is probably recyclable. If it springs back to close to its original shape (does not form a ball) then it probably has foil in it and it is to go in your garbage and end up in the landfill.

So what can I do to reduce garbage and minimize what goes into the landfill this Christmas?

When wrapping your presents this year think of alternative ways to wrap Christmas presents such as using shoe boxes, newspapers, grocery papers, old comics, kraft paper, tea towels, old maps, fabrics, or even a reusable shopping bag.

An even better option is to save the wrapping paper from year to year and reuse it until it’s too damaged. If your little ones treat unwrapping presents like a paper shredding contest – you can turn it into a game where delicate unwraps are rewarded. However, once the damage has been done you can then use the bits as packing paper for shipping your presents to relatives that live away.

Enjoy your holidays and be friendly to the environment!