From birthdays, to Christmas, to weddings and other special occasions, giving and receiving gifts is a wonderful tradition. Problem is, most gift wrapping paper cannot be recycled because it's 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 cutdown (source).
In the UK, around 100 million rolls of gift wrapping paper are thrown awayafter 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 wrapping paper returns over 50,000 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 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 items - check out gifts wrapped in special editions covering the Apollo 11 moon landing and the London Olympics 2012)
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 specialthank you to Sir David Attenboroughfor 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.
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!
Reduce > Reuse > Repurpose > Recycle
It can be hard to resist wrapping paper strategically placed by cash desks. Here are examples of crafty and beautiful alternatives to help fight that temptation - spot the tea towel that looks like a Christmas cracker! Also here are letters from people and organisations I have been contacting about the campaign.
Do you have suggestions for sustainable alternatives? Would you like to support or run the campaign in your local area/country? Please get in touch.
The purpose of this campaign is also to get newspapers engaged to promote their papers for wrapping - you can see an example of how Unilever did this with the New York Timeshere. Please get in touch if your newspaper or organisation would like to be part of the campaign.
Please share the campaign and this website on your social media.
I have lived in London (UK) for most of my life. I started this campaign in March 2019 because I have used newspapers to wrap gifts for many years and I know that many of you out there also use other alternatives. I hope to get as many people and organisations as possible involved to spread the campaign.
My other waste reduction campaign is focused on umbrella covers - the ones that come with small/mini folding umbrellas. Many of us don't need these covers and throw them away almost immediately after purchase or lose them. I did a survey in March 2020 and over 80% of respondents said they would buy folding umbrellas without covers - you can see some of the responses here. Maybe Rihanna can help with the campaign :) What do you think?
Thank you, and I will leave you with a quote from Sir David Attenborough:
"The one thing we all have to do in a way which covers every aspect of our life is simply not to waste, and to live within our means."