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Is Wrapping Paper Recyclable? The Truth Might Surprise You…

Every holiday season almost always ends in piles of gift wrap all over the floor and the same question comes up, can we recycle the wrapping paper? We hope for the best and decide to put all of the paper into the recycling bin and the ribbons and bows into the garbage. Unfortunately, the reality is that there is a lot of gift wrap that cannot be recycled and in fact can contaminate the recycling, which leads to even more waste into landfills.

As conscious consumers, we owe it to ourselves and to our earth to familiarize ourselves with gift wrapping paper recycling basics. That’s why we’ve gathered the facts, figures, and replacement options you need to know to make more informed wrapping and disposal decisions this holiday season.

We were featured in Q&A with sustainability experts for Thanksgiving this year! Check it out.

The Hard Facts About Wrapping Paper and Recycling

Each year Americans alone use 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper to the tune of seven billion dollars. Half of that number ends up in a landfill. That’s 2.3 million pounds of used, crinkly, glitter-full Santa paper rolling like tumbleweeds across a desolate wasteland of trash. Not exactly a merry holiday visual, is it? 

And what happens to the other half, you ask? Well, it does go to be recycled, but even then, it may not actually be viable as a recyclable product. It all depends on what it’s made of.

What Wrapping Paper Is (and Isn’t) Recyclable?

Pretty much all traditional wrapping paper is a nightmare for paper recycling factories. Though sometimes it technically can be recycled, quite often it is so
thin and full of ink that the emissions and sludge produced to recycle it is
not worth the usable fibers that can be extracted. The good news is that there
are still some wrapping papers that can be successfully recycled.

Wrapping paper that CAN be recycled:

  • Kraft paper.
  • 100% paper products (if it crumples into a ball and does not “bounce back” it’s likely pure paper).
  • Lightly inked paper, or paper colored using organic products like vegetable dyes.  

Wrapping paper and products that CANNOT be recycled:

  • Wrapping paper with glitter, foil, plastic, velvet, or any texture at all.
  • Wrapping paper lined with plastic (The really, really thin stuff sold in dollars stores and a lot of bargain bins).
  • Wrapping paper still stuck with tape.
  • Bows
  • Ribbon
  • Sticky tags
  • Glittery Holiday cards (glitter is just a no-no across the board).

As you can see, the majority of wrapping paper is single-use only and landfill-bound. Also, when the recyclable wrapping paper is mixed in with non-recyclable paper it will most likely be rendered “contaminated” and all of it will go to landfills.



If you are not sure if the product is recyclable, it is best to toss it in the trash. In the long term, the recycling plants will thank you for making their lives easier by giving them only good products that can be successfully recycled.

Does the idea of tossing all that wrapping paper in the garbage make you cringe? Yeah, us, too. Read on for gift wrap alternatives that can help you leave Paper Nation for a more sustainable land called “Eco-Friendly Gift Wrap.” It’s a pretty cool land. We think you’ll love it.


7 Ways to Go-Green with Your Gift Wrap (That Don’t Require You to Buy More Paper)

Say “bye-bye” to toxic, dyed-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life-like-a-bad-80’s-color-job wrapping paper and a big, beautiful “hello” to the new wave of wicked-cool recyclable, reusable, sustainable gift wrap options.

1. Reuse What You Already Own

We’re talking old maps, posters, magazines, and any other papery-products you have laying around. You can even choose a type of paper or pattern to hint at the gift contained inside.

For example, you can use a map for wrapping the gift of a pair of hiking boots. Another idea is to use a concert poster for the gift of a graphic tee of the same band. Get creative with it!

2. Newspaper

If you receive or pick up the daily physical newspaper, this provides a lot of great paper to work with. A Newspaper is made to be recycled – probably into more newspapers! Hop on this already-running train and use this easily foldable, retro-chic option for your gifts this year.

3. NO Paper: Enter Tokki Gift Bags

woman knocking on door with gift bags


You don’t have to use eco-friendly gift wrap on every gift to make a huge impact. In fact, if every person in America used a Tokki gift bag for just three of their gifts this year, the amount of paper saved would be able to cover forty-five thousand football fields.

That’s a lot of paper. Here at Tokki we have made sustainable wrapping our business, and we proudly offer beautiful, limited-edition gift bags (and traditional-style wraps) in various sizes to help reduce the impact on our environment while simultaneously enhancing the beauty of your gifts.

Not only do they make wrapping easy and beautiful, but they make the gifting experience memorable no matter the distance. Our Tokki Tag (attached to our bags) allows you to upload a gift message, photo, GIF, or Video so you can "show up" with your gift. Just tap the Tokki Tag (or scan for older phones) and your message will magically appear. It's gifting made sustainable and fun! 


4. Scarves, Cloth, and Other Fabric

Using a scarf for wrapping is a gorgeous way to doll-up a present – you can even make it a part of the gift itself! No scarf handy? No problem. Pillowcases, extra loose fabric from sewing projects, even graphic t-shirts can make excellent DIY gift wrap options.  

Use one of our Tokki Bands to seal your finished gift wrap job instead of tape. Our Tokki Tag allows you to add a personlized gift message, no paper card needed. 


5. Reuse Old Cardboard Boxes or Shoe Boxes

If you do a lot of online ordering, you probably have a surplus of cardboard boxes at your disposal. Save some of the smaller boxes as they come in and reuse them as gift boxes. If you keep it in the family, these boxes can be used year after year
for birthdays, anniversaries, and more holiday seasons.

6. Use Shredded Paper Instead of Tissue Paper

Surprisingly, tissue paper is difficult to recycle. But, if you have a shredder at home, it’s easy to replace that tissue with paper shreds. (Just remember to stick with mail ads or magazine pages and not the remnants of important documents!)

7. Make Your Bows Out of Bags

This one takes a little more effort on your part, but it can also be a fun evening activity for you and the kids. Check out this article from Splash of Something for instructions on how to turn every bag from Trader Joes to Barney’s into a festive bow.

paper bag bow

Swapping traditional gift wrap for a more sustainable option is easier than ever before. Find a few ways that work for you to reduce your wrapping paper consumption this year – the planet will thank you for it!

 is wrapping paper recyclable? the truth might surprise you...

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Further Reading 

Pivoting Back with Purpose | Gifting More Sustainably and Joyfully in an Ever-Crazy World

What Is Sustainable Gifting and Why Does It Matter?

How to Wrap | Learn How to Wrap with Our Reusable Tokki Gift Bags + Wraps 

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