Can Wrapping Paper Be Recycled? Do’s and Don’ts

Can Wrapping Paper Be Recycled? Do’s and Don’ts

Posted by Michael Stone on

While wrapping paper is generally fantastic, it does have some drawbacks and one of these is the rubbish it creates. Once the gifts have been rapidly torn open in glee, the wrapping paper is usually discarded to one side and thrown away - often in the general waste bin.

This leads to the question, can wrapping paper be recycled and if so, how do you do it and are there any rules to be aware of? If you want to minimize your impact on the planet and recycle where possible, I explain this subject below!

What Types of Wrapping Paper Can Be Recycled?

The great news is, is that most types of wrapping paper can be recycled but there are a few key features to look out for which we discuss later. To start, the following wrapping paper types are usually recyclable:


Regular wrapping paper either plain or glossy that doesn’t have any non-paper additives can almost always be recycled. Therefore, once your kids have finished tearing into their amazing presents, you can chuck the paper in your recycle bin!

Other types of specialized paper such as Kraft paper and biodegradable paper can be recycled too. The only caveat with Kraft paper is that it cannot be recycled if it is bleached or colored. Similarly, you can actually throw biodegradable wrapping paper in your general waste bin as over time it will simply disintegrate into nothing.

You should take care to remove any extras from your wrapping paper though as these are usually not recyclable. This includes ribbons, bows, tape, foil, and plastic coatings. Most of these items contain plastic elements which are tough to recycle and can even cause jams and damage to the recycling machinery.

How do You Know if Wrapping Paper is Recyclable?

We have an answer to the question, can wrapping paper be recycled, but it is still sometimes difficult to identify the different types and know exactly if your paper falls into the recycling category. Luckily, there are three simple things you can do or look for to be sure:

The “scrunch test”

An amazing test you can do that many recycling companies advise is the “scrunch test”. Take the wrapping paper in your hand and scrunch it up into a ball.

If the paper springs back to its original shape then it is a sign that it has plastic or non-paper additives and thus cannot be recycled.

In contrast, if your scrunch it up and it stays in the scrunched form, this is an indicator that it’s paper-only and thus can be recycled. To summarize:

  1. Scrunch the wrapping paper in your hand
  2. If it springs back to its original shape = do not recycle it
  3. If it retains its new, scrunched shape = recycle it

Non-paper additives

The main element that prevents wrapping paper from being recycled is non-paper additives. These are elements that contain other materials that are difficult to recycle such as plastic and metal (within a paper recycling plant). Examples of these additives include:

  • Metallic flakes
  • Glitter
  • Laminate
  • Embedded plastics
  • Colored shapes


If your wrapping paper contains any of these elements, it cannot be recycled and should be thrown in your general waste.

The Label or Supplier

Failing the above two tests/observations, I always check the label and look for any information on the paper itself or any packaging it was secured in. Labels can contain recycling information and if you can’t find anything like that, you could request recycling info from the supplier as they should be able to provide it.

Does Wrapping Paper Go into General Waste?

You should have now separated your wrapping paper and determined which is recyclable and which is not. What do you do with it now?

The rule is simple - recyclable wrapping paper should be placed in your recycling bin and non-recyclable wrapping paper should be placed in your general waste.

If you try to put wrapping paper that has non-paper additives, you could end up getting your waste bin collection revoked or the trash collectors could simply refuse to take your rubbish. I always check with local trash collection services to make sure I know what my rubbish bins can and can’t contain and this helps save any disagreements and non-collections.

FAQ

Do you have to remove the tape before recycling wrapping paper?

Yes! I advise removing all tape from wrapping paper before recycling it. This is because tape typically contains plastic elements and thus is incredibly difficult to recycle.

Can Christmas wrapping paper be recycled?

Yes! Providing you follow the rules we discussed above and look for non-paper additives like glitter and metallic flakes. If items like these are not present, Christmas wrapping paper is recyclable.

Do Your Bit for Our Planet And Recycle Your Wrapping Paper Where Possible

I hope this has given you some insight and you have a clear idea of which wrapping paper can be recycled. I get that it may seem like a small thing, but if you recycle wherever possible, you can make a difference and contribute to a greener future for our planet!

Just remember that if the wrapping paper has non-paper additives such as glitter, plastics, and metallic flakes, it cannot be recycled. It’s also advised to remove any tape and ribbon too as these are usually non-recyclable.

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