Can I put wrapping paper in the recycling bin?

A child unwraps a gift wrapped in Curlicue sustainable Dino-Roars gift wrap which features dinosaurs

 Image features Dino-Roars gift wrap

Gift-giving occasions may arise throughout the year, and often involve the use of wrapping paper. However, after the presents have been unwrapped, you may wonder what to do with the leftover paper. Can you recycle wrapping paper in the UK? The answer is not as simple as you might think.

It is important to understand that not all wrapping paper is recyclable. Some types contain non-recyclable materials, such as glitter or foil, which can contaminate other recyclable materials. Additionally, some wrapping paper has a plastic coating or a glossy finish, making it unsuitable for recycling.

To determine whether your wrapping paper is recyclable, you can perform a simple test. Scrunch up the paper into a ball. If it stays scrunched up, it is likely to be recyclable. If it springs back, it is likely to contain non-recyclable materials.

In general, plain paper-based wrapping paper is recyclable in the UK. However, it is important to check with your local council or recycling centre for specific guidelines, as rules can vary depending on the area.

When recycling wrapping paper, it is important to remove any non-paper elements such as tape, ribbons, and bows. These items can cause problems in the recycling process and should be disposed of separately. 

If you want to reduce your environmental impact further than just recycling properly, we advise you buy sustainable wrapping paper which is easily recycled in household recycling because it is often uncoated paper. But beware of greenwashing, as a sustainable gift wrap brand ourselves Curlicue has encountered many instances of greenwashing gift wrap. Here's what you should look for as a minimum: 

  • Uncoated paper, so avoid wrap that is shiny or glossy 
  • No foiling or glitter 

At Curlicue we go even further with our sustainable credentials. All our wrap is made from 100% recycled paper and remains uncoated so it can be recycled again and again. We also use vegetable ink because it is not derived from fossil fuels and it isn't laden with toxic chemicals, which makes it much easier to wash out of the paper during the recycling process so it can be re-pulped and turned into paper again. We also partner with independent artists and illustrators for our beautiful designs. You can see our wrap here and you should check out our accessories as they are all recyclable or biodegradable. For example, the tape we sell is plastic-free so it doesn't need to be removed, it disintegrates in the recycling process. 

There are other eco-friendly alternatives to traditional wrapping paper. One option is to use reusable fabric wrap or bags, which can be used multiple times but just be sure to explain to the person receiving the gift to return or reuse the fabric. Another option is to use plain paper, such as newspaper, to wrap gifts but it doesn't always spark joy in the person you're giving the gift to. If you choose to use brown packing paper, check the origin of the product because they are usually from unsustainable sourced and have a high carbon footprint. 

In conclusion, check your wrapping paper carefully and buy wrapping paper that is easy to recycle in household recycling. It is important to check with your local council or recycling centre for specific guidelines, and to remove any non-paper elements before recycling. By being mindful of our consumption and waste, we can all do our part to create a more sustainable future.