Don’t Recycle Gift Wrap; Do This Instead

Should you recycle gift wrap? Your answer may be “no” if your city or community classifies certain wrapping papers as unrecyclable.

Or perhaps you’ve found out that the recycling center in your area uses more energy than you think is appropriate for processing. Some areas even have issues with recycling ending up in the landfill.

In these cases, what other option (besides tossing it all in the garbage) do you have?

The answer: upcycle it!

What Should You Do With Gift Wrap After the Holidays?

The holiday season is over now, and you still have a living room full of torn and crinkled wrapping paper, bows and ribbons.

The easiest way to clean it all up would be to just throw it all away. And in the back of mind, you’re super-tempted to go that route.

But your conscience isn’t having it, so here you are searching the internet for the best ways to not recycle all that leftover wrapping paper.

We say not, because as funny as it may seem (it’s paper, after all) many gift wraps – especially those shiny, laminated ones – actually aren’t recyclable in most communities.

We’re talking the super-popular, extra-pretty papers. Think metallic gift paper, glitter paper, foil wrap, shiny bows and ribbons.

You know, all that crumpled wrapping paper in your living room!

So, besides throwing it all in the garbage can (where it will eventually end up in a landfill) or into a poorly processed recycling center, what can you do with all that leftover Christmas wrap? How exactly can you upcycle it?

Let’s take a look at the options.

Don’t Recycle Gift Wrap, Upcycle It Instead! Here Are 12 Ideas

Just because you can’t recycle gift wrap with your city’s waste management doesn’t mean you can’t recycle at home. If you’re looking for some creative ways to give old gift wrap new life (aka upcycling), here are 12 great ideas just for you:

Use the old wrapping paper as stationary or background paper for scrapbooking.

Some of the thicker, less flimsy paper can be turned into Christmas cards for next year, thank you cards, envelopes or even decorative pages for a journal or planner. Thinner wrap can be used for notes, doodling, or as scratch paper.

Use it to line your shelves, cabinets, or kitchen drawers.

Many families have a protective sheet (usually a boring plastic covering) sitting in the bottom of drawers and cabinets. Make these areas of your home super unique with some of that old wrapping paper!

Easily create holiday art.

Simply cut out some of the paper to fit in a frame, and it’s ready to display. Or use it to cut out snowflakes, make holiday-themed bookmarks, or to make bows for next year’s Christmas gifts.

Make paper confetti!

Just run the wrap through your shredder and save it to decorate for future festivities. You can also use it as a filler for gift bags or boxes.

Use it to make gift tags.

Just cut out little squares or rectangles and you’re good to go.

Use it as filling for mailing packages.

Need to ship a package, but don’t have any bubble wrap or shipping peanuts? Lucky you, you have all this used gift wrap laying around.

Make Christmas tree ornaments.

This is a fun one to do with the kids! Click here for some easy-to-follow instructions.

Make paper chains.

Kids love using paper chains to count down to a special day- Christmas, New Year’s, the first day of summer break, their birthday, etc.

Turn old gift wrap into a super cute paper maché project.

Think next year’s Christmas decor.

Make gift wrap origami.

Click here to get started.

Turn it into a game.

My family does this every year. On Christmas we crumple up a bunch of wrap into a ball and play “Tissue Toss.” First person to let the wrapping paper ball hit the floor loses!

Save it.

This tip is probably the most common way people recycle gift wrap.

Carefully smooth out any wrinkles you see in the old gift wrap from this year. Fold it neatly and stack it away until next year. You can do the same with any leftover tissue paper.

As long as it’s not too bad, any torn or ripped paper can easily be covered with a bow or ribbon (or more paper).

Alternative Gift Wrapping Ideas

Now that we’ve covered what you can do with this year’s old wrapping paper, let’s get into how you can better plan for next year.

The first thing you can do is resolve to do things different next year. Next Christmas, take it upon yourself to consume less wrapping paper than you did this year. Cut down on the waste by finding unique, alternative ways to wrap your gifts.

So, what are some good alternatives to traditional wrap? Let’s take a look…

  1. The funnies. With smart phones at almost everyone’s fingertips, not everyone gets the newspaper these days. But in the case you do, Sunday’s colorful comics make for a fun wrapping paper. Word searches are fun, too!
  2. Fabric scraps. Have a basket full of old fabric bits that you’re not using for anything else? Patch them all together to create a beautiful gift wrap.
  3. Another gift. Giving your friend a pair of warm gloves for Christmas? Get them a second gift, such as a scarf, and use it to wrap up the gloves.
  4. An old chip bag. Flip an empty chip bag inside out and it becomes a beautiful, shimmery gift wrap! Spritz with cleaning spray and wipe down first, of course.
  5. Old maps. You can just imagine how gorgeous this would be as gift wrap.
  6. Brown bags, like lunch bags or grocery bags. The best thing about these is that they’re highly customizable. You can easily decorate them with chalk, crayons, paint, faux gems or flowers, photos, yarn, and almost anything else.
  7. Sheet music. Have some old sheet music lying around that you really don’t need anymore? It would make for some very elegant gift wrap.
  8. Recyclable gift wrap. Many companies, like Wrappily, are committed to producing gift wrap that is 100% recyclable or made from already recycled paper.

It’s A Wrap!

As you can see, you don’t have to recycle gift wrap when you can upcycle it instead. The possibilities are virtually limitless when it comes to finding alternatives to traditional wrapping paper.

With a little bit of creativity, you are bound to come up with even more ideas! If you do, be sure to share them with us in the comments below.

Happy gift wrapping!

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Don't Recycle Gift Wrap
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Aubrey Bauer

Aubrey is a lifelong writer who has blogged professionally since 2012. With additional education and career history in funeral service, she started her online writing business, Eulogies by Aubrey, in 2019.

She has written not only for gift and funeral-related...

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