Can Wrapping Paper Be Recycled?

can wrapping paper be recycled

I don’t know about you, but recycling is a high priority in my household.  As a family, we really try to do our fair share to help save this earth.  I have two boys, 12 & 15, and for sure this generation has recycling top of the mind.  I love it!   

Giving gifts is something people do throughout the year for all sorts of occasions.  There are many ways to package a gift...boxes, gift bags, wrapping paper, ribbons, tissue paper...can all of it be recycled? 


“Can you recycle wrapping paper?”

The short answer is that it depends on what it is made of.

In general, if your wrapping paper is made from basic paper or pre-recycled paper, then it usually can be recycled.  The problem comes in when you start to get fancy.  If your paper has any glitter, metal (gold/silver) shapes, laminate coating or any texture to it, such as velvet, then it can not be recycled.  I reached out to my local St. Louis City Recycles group and they said “Wrapping paper that is 100% paper can be recycled.  If the wrapping paper has excessive glitter, is foil or plastic based, it cannot be recycled.  A good way to determine this is to see if it rips like paper, it's recyclable.  If it stretches and doesn't rip easily, it is not recyclable.”

Many recycle websites talk about a scrunch test as a way to determine if your paper is recyclable.  Crunch it into a ball.  If it stays tight in the ball shape, you are good to put it in the recycle.  If it immediately comes undone and opens up, then it can’t be recycled.  Recycle Now out of England made a great video to demonstrate this test.

Megan Malone with Earth911 estimates that approximately 4.6 million lbs. of wrapping paper is produced in the U.S. each year, and that about 2.3 million pounds ends its life in landfills.  That is just crazy!  It is better to educate ourselves on what can and can’t be recycled.  While researching this blog post, a phrase called Wishcycling kept appearing.  I asked St. Louis City Recycles about this, “Wishcycling is when you put items that you think are recyclable into the recycling, when in fact, they are not accepted in our Blue Bins and end up causing more harm than good.  The most common wishcycled items are plastic bags/film, hangers, hoses and plastics that aren't bottles or containers.”  

The best way to completely understand what can and can not be placed into your blue bins is to contact your local recycling company directly.  Some cities have more recycling capabilities and machinery, and therefore can vary in different locations.  



So for those of us trying to do right for our planet earth, what can we do?

You certainly can find 100% paper in the traditional stores, but nowadays there are companies that carry all sorts of wrapping supplies that are eco-friendly. 

One in particular is Wrappily.  I am in love with their patterns.  The colors are so bright that they make you want to smile!  Sara Smith founded Wrappily in 2013 to create a more sustainable gift wrap.  All of their gift wrap is printed on local newspaper presses and is 100% recyclable and compostable.  A piece of newsprint can be recycled up to 7 times! Its printing requires less energy and uses soy-based inks.

Wrappily recycled wrapping paper beach print.  Eco friendly


Another option that is very unique is a brand called  Triumph Plant.  The sheets are made from 100% Recycled Paper and are embedded with hundreds of Wildflower seeds.  After opening the gift, the receiver can plant the paper and watch it grow!  The flowering giftwrap won the Retailer's Choice Award at the National Hardware Show in 2015. This product is sold on Amazon.

 triumph plant gift wrap that grows.  eco friendly gift wrap.  gift wrap alternative


Wrappr provides another eco-friendly way to wrap your gifts using fabric.  Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth that dates back centuries. It entails a square piece of cloth being used to wrap gifts or transport items. Their fabrics are made out of recycled materials, organic and biodegradable.  They have beautiful designs created by a team of graphic designers.

Wrappr japanese gift wrap.  wrapping paper alternative.  fabric gift wrap.  eco friendly gift wrap


Paper Source has this gorgeous abstract print paper that is made from stone and not trees.  Stone wrapping paper is eco-friendly, water-resistant, recyclable and reusable.

Paper source stone wrapping paper abstract.  eco friendly gift wrap.  gift wrap alternative


Kraft paper is another great eco-friendly option to wrap gifts.  Kraft paper was named after the German word kraft, meaning “strength,” which refers to a specific type of pulping process that ensures strong paper.  Kraft paper is a durable, machine-made paper that's made mostly from wood pulp.  Amazon sells rolls of kraft paper that can be used for any occasion.  I like this one from Creative Paper Co.  It is 100% Recycled Brown Kraft Paper and Made In The USA.  It is industrial grade 40# paper weight which makes it ideal for wrapping and multiuse.  It is un-Waxed and uncoated, Eco-Friendly Traditional Brown Craft Paper, Not a Butcher Paper.

Kraft paper gift wrap.  eco friendly gift wrap alternative.

“Can tissue paper be recycled?”

Ok this one surprised me.  Most of the time, tissue paper can not be recycled because it is made from recycled paper fibers that are too small to be reused again. Most waste management facilities don’t have the infrastructure to sort the materials and it’s not easy to find buyers who are willing to pay for it.  Because of this, many recyclers don’t accept tissue paper (even if the tissue paper is labeled as recyclable).  

I read online that some tissue paper could be composted, so I called my local St. Louis company to see what they had to say.  St. Louis Composting told me that due to the bleach and dyes in the tissue, it can not be composted.  This comes back to the advice above to call your local service companies to get the specifics of what can and can not be recycled or composted in your area.

Even though tissue paper in most areas can not be recycled, what we can do to be more eco-friendly is on the front end of purchasing the tissue paper.  There are companies that sell tissue paper made from recycled materials.  

Nashville Wraps  sells bulk 100% genuine recycled tissue paper in over 40 colors and comes in various sizes.  Made in the USA with tradition and innovation, they stand behind their product. Guaranteed through blind testing, their 100% recycled Green Way® tissue paper has been consistently shown to be equal to or exceed the look and feel of any color tissue on the market today.

Nashville wraps recycled tissue paper.  eco friendly tissue paper for gifts


There are several Etsy stores like PomLove who sell 100% recycled tissue paper in over 90 colors.  They say that this tissue paper is compostable, but as mentioned above, you should call your local company to verify.

Etsy Pom Love recycled tissue paper.  Eco friendly tissue paper


“Can ribbons & bows be recycled?”

The answer is most likely no.  All those fun, curly ribbons and stick on bows that we buy from our mainstream stores and use can not be recycled.  However, there are eco-friendly alternatives out there.  

Wrappily has some eco-friendly alternatives.  They have a cotton curling ribbon that is both compostable and biodegradable.  You can loop it, tie it and curl it!  It comes in a variety of colors.  They also have a paper ribbon that is recyclable, compostable and made with non-toxic, water soluble dyes.  It's shapable, versatile, fairly sturdy, and has a great crinkle texture allowing you to get creative tying-on that finishing touch to your gifts.

Wrappily eco friendly ribbon that can be recycled

Paper raffia (or raffia ribbon) is biodegradable and recyclable.  This is a great option that comes in many colors.  You can find paper raffia at a variety of stores such as Amazon or Walmart.

paper rafia on amazon.  eco friendly ribbon that can be recycled

Can gift bags be recycled?

Similar to the wrapping paper, if the bag is made from plain paper, yes, it can be recycled.  If it has any glitter, metallic pieces, embellishments, plastic, laminate coating, etc., then it can not be recycled.  If the handle is made of rope or ribbon, you need to remove it before placing in the recycle bin.  I have to admit, trying to find really cute printed “all paper” gift bags to order online is tough to find.

Nashville Wraps sells bulk paper printed gift bags that are made from 40% recycled white kraft paper. They are 100% recyclable, contain 40% post-consumer recycled content and are part of their Green Way® Eco-Friendly Packaging line. Made in the USA.  This pink petals pattern is one of them.

nashville wraps all paper gift bags pink petal.  eco friendly gift bags that can be recycled


Michaels craft store sells solid color paper bags by Celebrate It in 13 colors.  

michaels all paper bags.  eco friendly gift bag.  gift bags that can be recycled


BagDream Kraft Paper Bags are sold on Amazon in bulk.  BagDream kraft paper bags are bio-degradable and recyclable. They have a rustic, upscale and healthier look than plastic.  They come in several solid colors.

bagdream paper bags on amazon.  recycled paper gift bags.  eco friendly gift bag


Knowledge is the key to making better decisions.  I definitely learned a lot about what gift wrapping supplies can and can’t be recycled.  I will absolutely pay more attention to the type of paper that I buy going forward.  I already purchased some Wrappily beach themed paper and am going to look into one of the fabric options to wrap some gifts in.  It will be fun to experiment and see what pretty packages I can create.  I encourage you to do the same.  Every little bit helps.  If every household changes one part of their wrapping supplies to be more eco-friendly, it will all add up.  There really are some great options.  Happy Gifting everyone!

*Feature image by Hello Sunday on Unsplash