Alternatives To Wrapping Paper This Holiday Season (2019)

As many of you probably already know, traditional Christmas wrapping paper, while beautiful, is not recyclable. Each year in Canada, 

540,000 tonnes of wrapping paper and gift bags are thrown out each year according to Zero Waste Canada, a Vancouver based non profit organization. The United States are not much better having spent $12.7 billion on gift wrap according to a 2017 report from the Huffington Post. 

What makes it not recyclable though? It's just pretty paper right? Yeah it absolutely is, but it's the 'pretty' part that's the issue. Wrapping paper is traditionally covered in dyes and glitter and other substances that makes it stand out and catch our eyes. Recycling depots do not have a cost effective method to remove the dyes and glitter from the wrapping paper so they simply don't accept heavily dyed papers. 

Plain wrapping paper however, is recyclable but chances are the recycling depots in your town or city will not take it. In many places, there is a blanket ban on recycling wrapping paper due to the fact that people don't necessarily know enough about it to distinguish recyclable paper from non-recyclable paper.

So what can you do? 

While they may not be as pretty as wrapping paper, there are quite a few alternatives to wrapping paper for wrapping up your gifts this holiday season. Below are four alternatives!

Old Newspaper

Newspaper Wrapping

This is my personal favourite of the bunch. Everyone either gets the newspaper delivered to their house every morning or knows someone who does. Newspaper, recyclable in its own right, is a perfect candidate to be reused in the form of wrapping paper before being tossed in the blue bin. I find newspaper takes on a unique look when it sits under a Christmas tree. Only way to see if you agree is to test it out for yourself!

Reuse Old Gift Bags

Gift Bag

Remember when Aunt Beatrice gave you that fancy 6 pack of socks in the nice gift bag for your birthday last year? Ok not all of us are lucky enough to have a sock giving Aunty B, but you get my point. Most of us have a lot of these gift bags kicking around the house. These are just as bad as wrapping paper in terms of being able to be recycled if they have heavy dye all over them but they are much more durable and easy to reuse time and time again which make them a better option.

Reusable Fabric Bags

Fabric Bags

These are new to me but every time I see them being used I fall more and more in love with the idea. My fiancee's family uses fabric bags to hold more than one small gift, unwrapped, in bulk. This is an excellent purchase if you're looking for ways to go waste free year after year. They come in tons of different patterns and colours so everyone can find a look they love!

Plain Brown Paper

Brown Bags

Yeah yeah I hear all the hypocrite accusations, but hear me out. I know I said that plain wrapping paper is usually not accepted at recycling plants because of a blanket ban on paper,  but some places do allow plain brown wrapping paper to be recycled. If you hometown does not though, this dye-free paper can be used as a fire starter as the fumes will not release any harmful chemicals. Holding onto it and recycling it outside of the Christmas season might work too, just make sure to contact your recycling depot first to see if they're ok with that.

A Note On Ribbon

Notice all of the images above have a nice ribbon attached? Well ribbon is a perfect way to spice up any plain looking packaging! Just make sure to tie the knots in a way that is easy to either untie or slip off so they don't get cut and can be reused for years to come. 

And there you have it, four alternatives to wrapping paper that look fantastic (especially when spiced up with a little ribbon). I urge you to consider using something other than wrapping paper this year, it is a small gesture that helps the planet in a big way.


Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays!


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