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 under US$13 billion on gift wrap in 2017 (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 papers such as the London Evening Standard)
- Fabric (e.g. scarves, tea towels, cushion covers, pillow cases, offcuts, tote bags, Wrag Wrap)
- Brown paper (try to find ones not wrapped in plastic)
- Children's art work
- Maps brought back home from travels/holidays (see examples below)
- Old calendars
- Packages from online and offline shopping
- Sheet music
- Tins and jars
- Decoration (fallen leaves and orange/lemon peels make great finishes instead of glitter, shiny and sticky plastic materials)
- Washi tapes (see below), twine and fabric strips - seal your wrapping with these or other paper tapes as most plastic sticky tape is not biodegradeable and cannot be recycled
The purpose of this campaign is also to get newspapers engaged to promote their papers for wrapping in time for Christmas. Please get in touch if your newspaper or organisation would like to be part of the campaign.
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.
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.
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.