From birthdays, to Christmas, to weddings and other special occasions, giving and receiving gifts is a wonderful tradition that helps us connect. Problem is, most gift wrapping paper cannot be recycled as it is mixed with materials such as plastic, glitter, dye, ink, laminate, foil, sticky tape etc. (BBC article). So tonnes of it ends up in landfills or incinerators every year, and yet a lot of it is unnecessary in the first place. For many, it's often an unconscious purchase - something we buy without thinking about if we really need it.
- US consumers spent just over US$8 billion on gift wrap in 2018 (source). It's also estimated that 4 million tons of waste in the US over the holidays is made up of wrapping paper and shopping bags - this amounts to around 30 million trees cut down (source).
- In the UK, around 100 million rolls of gift wrapping paper are thrown away after Christmas (source).
- Canadians throw away about 540,000 tonnes of gift wrapping and gift bags during the holiday season (source).
- Australians are estimated to use over 150,000 kilometres of wrapping paper for Christmas alone - enough to wrap around the Earth’s equator almost four times (source).
Even if you question or ignore the statistics, just look around shops and online at how much wrapping paper is on sale all year. A search of Amazon.com for shiny wrapping paper returns over 700 results.
Is it right to create so much waste year after year for something we usually use only once? Why do we spend so much money and resource on something that is fundamentally rubbish?
There is nothing wrong with wrapping gifts - it's part of a wonderful tradition of celebration and generosity. The issue is with what we use to wrap and the enormous waste created. This campaign is to raise awareness of the waste, to encourage use of more sustainable alternatives and reuse of what we already have instead of buying wrapping paper. Some suggestions are below and you can see examples in the Gallery.
- Newspapers (e.g. free local papers or the broadsheets for larger gifts - check out the gifts wrapped in special editions covering the Apollo 11 moon landing and London Olympics 2012)
- Fabric (e.g. scarves, tea towels, cushion covers, pillow cases, offcuts, tote bags, Wrag Wrap, Lush's Knot Wrap - all good for trying out the Japanese art of Furoshiki)
- Brown paper (it's hard to find one not wrapped in plastic)
- Children's art work
- Maps brought back home from travels
- Old calendars
- Bags and packaging from online and offline shopping
- Sheet music
- Tins and jars
- Fallen leaves and orange/lemon peels make great finishes instead of plastic materials
- Twine, fabric strips, washi tapes (see below) - seal your wrapping with these or other paper tapes as most plastic sticky tape cannot be recycled and is not biodegradable
A special thank you to Sir David Attenborough for replying to my letter about the campaign. In his kind, handwritten letter, he explained that he cannot get involved personally in the campaign (which is understandable) but that he shares my concern about the waste created by gift wrapping. I'm very grateful that he took the time to reply in such a personal way. His letter is the first picture in the Gallery below.
Thank you to Lambeth Council (and Peter Green in particular) for promoting the campaign with a blog on their website - Campaign to 'Mind the Wrap' starts in Lambeth.
And a huge thank you to Maker Park Radio of Staten Island, New York City, for giving me the opportunity to promote the campaign by hosting shows on their community radio.
Apologies for not providing this webpage in other major languages. I have been really encouraged by the support for this campaign from all over the world. If you would like to translate this page into your language or run the campaign in your country, please feel free to do so and I am happy to help where I can. Thank you!