Sustainable Ways to Get Rid of Holiday Gift Wrapping

Dec 27, 2015

Used Gift Wrapping Paper - How to Sustainable dispose of

If you’re anything like me, the end of this long holiday weekend means getting rid of the mountain of gift wrapping paper, boxes and other packaging your holiday gifts came in.  Those of you who went shopping on Boxing Day may have even added more packaging to the pile left over after Christmas morning.  Now we must set about the task of getting our homes back to joyful, holiday order if we want to spend next weekend celebrating the New Year and not being mad at ourselves for the overflowing trash bins still packed with festive gift wrapping paper and cardboard boxes.

How to sustainably toss your gift wrap/packaging

Recycling of holiday gift wrap and shipping supplies tends to boost recycling plant production by up to 15% in the weeks immediately after Christmas.  Depending on the item, however, there may be different things to consider before tossing them all in your recycling bin.  While we always want to avoid putting recyclables in the trash, special rules may apply.  Check out the tips below, and be sure to consult with the appropriate local/municipal websites.

Wrapping paper

Wrapping paper that includes gold or silver shapes, glitter, certain dyes, or is laminated may not be able to be recycled.  Check first with your municipal recycling program to find out which types they can accept before your whole bin is considered unfit for recycling. You may find that while these items should not be put in your curbside recycling bin, many areas set up gift-wrap drop-off spots to handle the tons of paper used each year.


If you’ve received any packages shipped a long distance, there may be a swarm of foam packing peanuts flying about.  While Styrofoam is not accepted for recycling in many areas, some similar packing products are biodegradable.  Heck, some are even edible. It’s almost like two gifts in one!

biodegrable packing peanuts

When you don’t know what kind your loved ones used to send you a gift, though, the best bet is to simply reuse them.  If you’re saving any gift boxes or shipping materials for your own needs, just keep the packing peanuts you’ve already received and cut down the need to produce new ones throughout the year.

Gift bags

As with wrapping paper above, gift bags are often coated with wax or laminated, making them unable to be recycled by typical means.  I typically hold on to any gift bags I’ve received and reuse them next year, saving myself the time it would take to learn how to wrap a present good enough for my relatives who send me Pinterest-worthy gift wrap all the time. If you’re short on space, or generally want to keep the holiday clutter to a minimum the rest of the year, you’ll definitely want to look into an organizational system.  Starting out with a clear storage container will let you easily see what’s in the bin so you know when you’re taking the right one out of your closet, craft room or storage unit.

Gift boxes

The smaller, thin boxes you might receive when unwrapping a new Christmas sweater from your dear grandmother are typically made of the same stuff as cereal boxes.  Called “paperboard”, these boxes can be recycled with other mixed paper products, given that you’ve removed any ribbon, wrapping paper or tape from the outside.

Shipping boxes

This is by far the easiest one, but often times these are the items that start to take up your entire recycling bin.  The corrugated  cardboard boxes most commonly used for shipping are recyclable, but quality boxes can also be reused multiple times for lots of different reasons. One of the most sustainable ways to dispose of these items are to neatly unfold them, and take them to your nearest U-Haul store. All company stores and many independent dealers will accept gently used boxes and make them available for free to anyone who comes in.

You can also check out the Box Exchange message board. Used by many families, especially those in the Armed Forces or college students, this allows anyone with extra boxes to connect with people in their area who will be moving soon, reducing the need for new boxes to be made.

For more tips, check out our post on how to clean your home for the new year.  If you have any tips we’ve missed, or want to share local advise for gift wrapping recycling programs you’ve found in your area, please leave it in the comments below.

CC via Flickr/sonofnels

Do you recycle holiday wrapping paper or boxes? Tell us how in the comments below!


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