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Rubbish Fact 5: The issues with wrapping paper

Recycling wrapping paper seems completely normal. It’s paper, right? Well the truth is, a lot of the time, the dyes, colourings and laminates used mean it’s suitable for recycling.

Wrapping paper is designed for single use only. And although some of us try to re-use it. For instance, my mum always had a big bag of used wrapping paper in the cupboard. Though realistically this can only be done once or twice before it is finally binned.

Is recycling wrapping paper really so bad?

Short answer, yes. Recycling wrapping paper is problematic in a number of ways.

Fibres found in cheaper types of paper are not strong enough to recycle. Not to mention, the dyes and laminates in wrapping paper can also contain non-paper additives such as:

  • gold and silver colouring
  • glitter
  • plastics

And to compound all this, it often has sticky tape or sellotape still attached to it.

As a result, landfill or incineration are all too often the only options.

Some surprising stats on wrapping paper:

  • In the UK, we send 5 million tonnes of paper to landfill every year.
  • 108 milIion rolls of wrapping paper are binned each year.
  • Recent figures suggest that the amount of wrapping paper thrown away could reach the moon.
  • On average, it takes 6 mature trees to make a tonne of paper.
    • This means approximately 50,000 trees are used to make the 8,250 tonnes consumed at Christmas (estimated Christmas use = 75% of total)!

To put that last stat into context, 10,000 trees were cut down to make way for the contentious Newbury bypass, and this became a major national issue.

Yet, we waste 5 times this amount every Christmas.

Defra estimates that enough paper is used each year to gift-wrap the island of Guernsey. Defra also estimates that last year, 83 sq km of wrapping paper ended up in UK rubbish bins.

And research by Greenpeace found that for every 1kg of wrapping paper, that 3kg of CO2 emissions are produced due to the manufacturing process.

Each year, a forest the size of Wales is required to provide all the paper used in Britain.

One solution is to not wrap your gifts (my favourite) or you could switch to using a long lasting fabric gift wrap (see Wrag Wrap where I also got some of the above facts from).

If you’d like to know what you can do to recycle your Christmas waste then check out the Recycle Now website.