Few things inspire more joy than a collection of beautifully wrapped presents under a Christmas tree! The problem with gift wrap, though, is that it’s often not recyclable. Even though the base of most gift wraps is indeed paper, many have overlays like metallic foil or glitter, have tape stuck to them, are saturated with problematic inks or dye, or are so thin that the fibers aren’t useful for recycling.
Whether wrapping paper is recyclable in your area will be 100 percent dependent on your local recycling resources, and you can find that out by visiting your county website or using my favorite search tool on Earth911. So, once you know if it’s recyclable in your area, you have a few choices.
If you can recycle it: As you open the present bonanza, keep a brown paper bag on hand to stuff the wrapping paper into it as you open your gifts. If you do this as you go, it’ll help mitigate the big cleanup mess afterwards. Just be sure to separate out any ribbons or doodads that aren’t made of paper because they can’t be recycled. Then put the bag of wrapping paper directly into your recycle bin.
If you can’t recycle it: Do the same as above, but with a big regular garbage bag, and don’t bother sorting out the ribbons and such. Throw it all into the landfill.
Note: You should never put gift wrap in the fireplace, because some of the materials used to decorate can be harmful to your health if you breathe in the fumes.
Then again, if the idea of tossing all that pretty paper—into recycling or the landfill—makes you sad, I propose you upcycle the gift wrap instead! To start, make an effort not to tear the paper to shreds as you open your gifts. Smooth as much of that intact paper as you can. Use it next year, or pass it along to a local pre-K to use for arts and crafts. I keep a stack of gently used paper on hand for my kids to make art with; they love having the fun patterns and textures to choose from!