Why Christmas Wrapping Paper is Bad for the Environment

by Liv McLeod
HeapsGood Blog - Wrapping Paper: The Real Christmas Grinch
Last year, my housemate gave me a Kris Kringle gift wrapped in a cotton shoe bag. Lazy! I thought. Where's the effort?
Little did I know that I had fallen victim to the most common Christmas lie of all, which is that wrapping paper = a thoughtful gift.WRAPPING PAPER: The Real Christmas Grinch

Wrapping paper and gift giving have become totally synonymous over the years, even amongst many eco-minded people.

It's easy to forget that we are using virgin paper to create a 30-second trash-destined experience, because it's just what we do.

The Big Problem

The stats on Aussie Christmases are pretty alarming.

Did you know that we're spending around 11 billion dollars a year during Christmas? And most of those gifts come in, you guessed it, wrapping paper.

In fact, wrapping paper is so popular at Christmastime, that Australians use more than 150,000km of wrapping paper during the festive season. That's enough to wrap around the Earth four times.

Which works out to about 8 metres per person.

That's spookier than the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.


After the annual gift-giving extravaganza, most people gather all the used wrapping paper, and pop it straight into the recycling bin.
A good intention, but recycling without checking that the material is properly recyclable is known as 'wishcycling'.

Unfortunately, a lot of the innocent paper that seems recyclable is lined with plastic. And woe betide any gifts that are decorated with glitter, a microplastic-infused nightmare.

As soon as your gift has any glittery wrapping on it, it's not recyclable. Plus, it's probably sending a bunch of microplastics into your home, parks, and oceans.
The same goes for shiny or dyed paper. Cheaper wrapping paper is often laminated (hence the plastic), contain additives like gold or silver, or their fibres simply aren't strong enough to be recycled.

Not to mention that the whole thing has to be held together with a metric ton of sticky tape, which is made from - say it with me, people - plastic.
Where your Christmas spirit gif

New Age Wrapping

The good news is, there's lots of ways to deliver a sustainable unboxing process if you want to keep giving your relatives gifties on Santa's day.
You could:
  • Wrap it in old newspapers, which was actually super popular in the olden days. Retro!
  • Re-use boxes, decorated yourself.
  • Nestle the gift in a scarf, or a reusable cotton bag, like my housemate.
  • Good for families: Encourage unwrapping along the sticky tape lines, instead of ripping. Collect all the paper at the end, store it in a cupboard, and use it next year. It sounds boring, but I did it my whole childhood, and I turned out normal.
  • Upcycle our Ecomailer bags into giftwrap. 
  • Gifting experiences! A classic that can be prefaced with the exciting phrase  "Check your emails."
New age wrappingBut if you really want to give a gift that looks stylish and shop-wrapped, consider switching to sustainable alternatives. We have Recycled Ecopaper, Ecotape and Hemp Cord available on our website, and together they make a krafty, eco-friendly gift.

For the businesses out there, we recommend trying to avoid the tempt of Christmas glitz. Give your customers an eco-friendly unboxing experience, and not only will they remember you well, but you'll be cutting down on the packaging hellfire.

When it comes to adding little flourishes, make sure they're not glittery or sticky either, because there's just going to end up in landfill. A free and au naturale way to decorate your gifts is by tying on a few sprigs of rosemary, thyme, cinnamon sticks or dried oranges for a cheap 'n seasonal feel.

The Wrap Up

It's hard to really enjoy a gift at Christmas once you know that all it's doing is contributing to tons of landfill.
Give gifts this year that are thoughtful in a different way, and so even if your cousin hates the jumbo Jenga set you got her, you'll know that you haven't created unnecessary paper waste.
And what about my reused shoe bag wrapped gift?
Egg on my face, because it turns out that my housemate had given me the greatest gift of all - sustainability. Heartwarming, right?

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