is wrapping paper recyclable?

How To Recycle Wrapping Paper

Is wrapping paper recyclable? This is a question that many people have, and the answer is not always clear.

Each year, Americans use around 4.6 million pounds of wrapping paper with a price tag of about 7 billion dollars. With such a high volume of paper being used each and every year, it would be terrible for it all to end up in a landfill. While some may think, well it’s paper it has to be, others think it isn’t plain paper so it must not be…they would both be partially correct.

In this article we will briefly explain which types of gift wrap are recyclable and which are not. We’ll also cover other gift wrapping items such as ribbons, options for wrapping gifts without using disposable materials, and some frequently asked questions.

Related Article: Guide to Paper Recycling

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Wrapping Paper Recyclable?

Yes, most types of wrapping are indeed recyclable. Better yet, they can be easily recycled in your curbside recycling bin. There are certain types of gift wrap that cannot be recycled and need to be instead placed in the regular waste bin, these include paper with non-paper materials on or in them such as metallic flakes, or glitter.

Which Types Of Wrapping Paper Are Recyclable?

Plain wrapping paper is definitely recyclable and can be recycled along with any other paper waste like cardboard or scrap office paper. You can simply place it in your curbside recycling bin at your home or office. Wrapping paper that is colored or patterned is also fine. So any pretty printed paper is fine to toss into the recycling bin.

The exceptions to this are those that are not purely paper, meaning they have metallic glitter or foil portions that are shiny and nonpaper. That fun, shiny metallic wrapping paper is not gonna be recyclable.

How Do I Know If Wrapping Paper Is Recyclable?

A cool trick to check if your wrapping paper has non-paper additives is to take a piece and scrunch it up into a ball, let go and see if it stays in a ball or not. If it unfolds and springs back close to its original shape chances are it cannot be recycled with paper materials.

Can You Recycle Wrapping Paper With Tape On It?

You should remove tape from your wrapping paper before placing it in the recycling bin, along with any bows or ribbons, or other decorations or embellishments. The only part that is recyclable is the actual paper product.

Is Christmas Wrapping Paper Recyclable?

Any paper-based wrapping, including Christmas and holiday gift wrap, will be recyclable as long as it doesn’t have any non-paper materials. Gift wrap is often not just paper, as it can include other materials such as foil. If it is slick and shiny, then it may not be able to be recycled with other paper goods like cardboard gift boxes. Glittery paper won’t be, but you can find other uses for it before it hits the trash.

What Can I Do With Unwanted Wrapping Paper?

Wrapping paper waste can be avoided. If you have old wrapping that you don’t want you can give it away or recycle it if it’s all paper material. Keep in mind also that wrapping paper can often be saved and reused; just carefully fold it and put it away for the next birthday, or holiday season.

You can also use undesirable patterned paper for other purposes such as shredding it to make fun confetti for celebrations or using it to wrap up delicate decorations. Use old wrapping paper to protect your fragile ornaments or other holiday decorations. There are even tutorials on how to turn old wrapping paper into strips to make your own bows for future gifts.

You can also look into donating unused materials to places such as churches, women’s shelters, food pantries, or foster organizations, before tossing them into the trash. These are things often overlooked when donations are made. Those who are in need of some food or living assistance often would love to have something to brighten a holiday or celebration.

Use Plain Wrapping Paper To Reduce Unrecyclable Waste

One simple way to decrease wrapping paper waste is buying only all paper gift wrap. Make sure you purchase only recyclable wrapping paper, by carefully checking the label. Plain gift wrap doesn’t have to look boring or plain. These days recyclable wrapping paper comes in so many fun, colorful, and trendy patterns the choices are almost limitless.

Another great option is using old newspaper or even scrap fabric as gift wrap, which is pretty nostalgic. You can also add an extra touch with ribbon, bows, or even better some natural elements like small pine cones, real flowers, or leaves. These natural decorations are biodegradable and easy to dispose of after they’ve served their purpose. Holidays don’t need to create nearly as much waste as they do if we make a small change here and there.

Do’s and Don’ts of Recycling Wrapping Paper


  • Do…purchase recyclable wrapping paper from the start. Check the label and avoid foils, glitter and metallic finishes.
  • Do…wrap gifts in eco-friendly wrapping paper whenever possible.
  • Do…remove tape pieces as the sticky tape is not recyclable along with the rest of the paper.
  • Do…carefully remove any bows, ribbons or other festive embellishments. These can usually be saved and reused over and over again so don’t toss them out!
  • Do…opt for kraft paper instead of glossy wrapping paper.
  • Do…check for recyclable packaging from the gifts to also recycle.
  • Do…recycle wrapping paper whenever possible!


  • Don’t…mix metallic, glitter, or foil wrapping paper in with other recyclables. These cannot be recycled along with the rest.
  • Don’t…toss perfectly good gift wrap out or even recycle it, if it can be reused that is even better than recycling it. Be creative maybe use the opposite side and decorate it with stamps or keep it simple.
  • Don’t…recycle laminated or dyed gift bags. These are not recyclable like regular wrapping paper.
  • Don’t…include the tissue paper or greeting cards on photo paper, they are not recyclable.
  • Don’t…include the bubble wrap or foamed peanuts from any gifts in your recyclables.

Gift Wrap

Americans create about two pounds of waste per person just by wrapping gifts. This means roughly 40 million pounds! This total includes all the paper products used to wrap, package and decorate gifts. Luckily there are some awesome alternatives to traditional wrapping paper and ideas to limit or eliminate entirely the gift wrap waste. Kraft paper is an affordable and eco-friendly choice with so many uses. Kraft paper can be decorated elaboratively with natural elements such as pinecones, leaves, flowers, or vines. It can also be stamped, painted, or left simply plain and embellished with a saved or repurposed ribbon or bow.

Whenever possible you should recycle wrapping paper responsibly and avoid trashing it and adding it to landfills unnecessarily. Wrap presents with recyclable paper from the get-go to help decrease the litter, or consider skipping wrapping papers altogether and opt for a simple bow or ribbon. Gift bags are not a better option as they are usually made from glossy paper or plastic coating which means they also cannot be tossed in the recycle bin.

Also, don’t forget the cardboard boxes many gifts are placed in are also very recyclable and shouldn’t find their way into the regular trash. Sustainable living means looking for every opportunity to limit or eliminate waste and reuse or recycle whenever possible. Purchasing recycled materials for your holiday or birthday celebrations is a great idea. If you do use plastic bags for gifts the upside is they are very durable and often can be reused over and over and then repurposed before eventually needing to be tossed.

Overall, wrapping paper is recyclable and you can still enjoy giving and receiving beautifully packaged gifts while being eco-friendly and making some small shifts in choices.

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