How to Recycle Gift Wrap & Use Less of It in the First Place


December 23, 2022

If your post-holiday gift opening extravaganza ends in a mountain of paper scraps, then your first instinct might be to grab a garbage bag and stuff it all in. But before you haul off all that paper outside for trash pickup, consider other options.

You may find something better and more environmentally sound to do with all those trimmings.

Plus, by learning how to reuse and recycle gift wrap, you can keep as much paper as possible out of the landfill. Not only will you be taking care of the earth, but you may also save a few pennies in the process.

Recycle or Not?

Recycling keeps trash from accumulating in landfills. Each year, Americans throw away approximately 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper. Shocking, right? If that number throws you for a loop, consider helping to cut down on that waste by reducing your own.

Recycling also preserves resources. For one thing, it spares trees from being cut down. It also takes less water and energy to recycle paper than to make new paper from scratch.

Fortunately, many types of paper are recyclable, including some gift wrap.

Recyclable Wrapping Paper

Regular old wrapping paper can generally be recycled, no problem. It doesn’t matter if it’s matte or glossy. As long as it’s pure paper, you can toss it in the recycling bin.

Don’t worry about removing the tape first, either. Tape isn’t a problem for recycling centers.

Non-recyclable Papers

While plain paper is fine, decorated or textured paper can be a problem. Don’t put glittery gift wrap in the recycling, for instance.

Metallic and laminated papers are problems, too. You can run a test by ripping the paper with your hands. If it tears readily, it’s probably regular paper. If it’s hard to rip, it may have a plastic coating that can’t be recycled.

Be careful about adding any extra decorations to your recycling pile. Bows and ribbons are definitely off-limits. They could get jammed in recycling equipment and cause a real headache at the plant.

Upcycling Ideas

If you can’t recycle your gift wrap, find other ways to keep it out of the landfill – at least for a while. Putting your used gift wrap in the recycling bin isn’t your only option. Your paper may still have a lot of life left in it.

Future Gifts

Yes, wrapping paper can be used more than once! The key is to be careful about how you unwrap your presents. Instead of wildly tearing the paper off, peel the gift open slowly and carefully.

After unwrapping a gift, remove any tape and neatly fold the paper. Those folded sheets of paper can then be stacked in a box. Next holiday season, the pre-cut sheets will be ready for your wrapping needs.

This option may not work for small kids, but if you’re exchanging gifts with adults, just let them know you want to reuse the paper. Maybe you’ll inspire them to reuse the paper, too.

Greeting Cards

As for those flocked or glittery scraps you have left, try turning them into holiday cards. Cut out your favorite images from the gift wrap. Affix them to folded sheets of card stock, and write cheery messages inside. Next December, you’ll have a box of festive cards ready for mailing.


You can also create one-of-a-kind envelopes with sheets of leftover wrapping paper. They’ll be a great complement for your handmade greeting cards.

Because wrapping paper tends to be flimsy, adhere it to a premade envelope. First, carefully undo the seams of an envelope and unfold it. Use a glue stick to affix a sheet of wrapping paper to the outside. Then, trim off the excess gift wrap before refolding the envelope and gluing it back together.

Gift Tags

If making your own holiday cards and envelopes seems like more work than you can or want to do, craft some gift tags instead. Cut around an image from a sheet of wrapping paper. Glue the picture to a cardstock tag, and jot down your recipient’s name. Add a decorative ribbon and attach the tag to your gift.

Holiday Ornaments

Colorful scraps of gift wrap work well for making holiday decorations, such as ornaments. Cut the paper into skinny strips and curl them around a pencil. Slip the paper curls inside a clear ornament bulb. Use as many curls as needed to fill the ornament and then replace the top.

These handmade ornaments are a great way to customize your tree this year. They would also make lovely gifts for the people on your list.

Drawer Liners

Used wrapping paper is good for more than just holiday projects. You can also find jobs for it around your house.

For instance, cut sheets of gift wrap to size and lay them inside your drawers. These drawer liners can protect the wood from stains and scuffs. When the paper liners get dirty, you can replace them with a new round of leftover gift wrap.

Home Decor

Pretty printed paper can dress up all sorts of spots around your house. You could make decorative containers to hold pens and pencils. Cut a sheet of gift wrap to the same height as an empty food can. Use a glue stick to cover the backside of the paper, and then wrap the sheet around the can.

This same strategy will also work for dressing up cylindrical planters.

Packaging Material

Instead of purchasing bubble wrap the next time you have a fragile package to ship, stuff the box full of old gift wrap. It should do a fine job of providing cushion while your package is in transit.

You can also use wrapping paper to safeguard items around your house, such as the fragile holiday ornaments that spend most of the year in storage. Sheets of paper could also be useful for protecting your dishes during a move.

Kid Crafts

If you have kids, let them practice their cutting and gluing skills with scraps of discarded gift wrap. They can also use it to make collages or other paper-based crafts in lieu of construction paper.

Sustainable Wrapping Alternatives

Upcycling your wrapping paper might help you reduce waste. But to avoid excess waste altogether at the end of the season, consider starting your holidays with eco-friendly gift wrap options in the first place.

Recycled Paper

For an easy approach to sustainable wrapping, purchase gift wrap that’s made from recycled paper. When you’re finished, the gift wrap can go right back in the recycling. You may also be able to compost it.

Gift Bags and Boxes

Sure, it’s possible to reuse wrapping paper, but there are other products that are even easier to use again and again. Start a collection of colorful gift bags and sturdy boxes. You could get years of use out of these items.


If you save old newspapers, you may never need to buy any gift wrap at all. Plus, after using it for wrapping, newspaper is easy to recycle. For the most colorful approach, wrap your gifts in the Sunday comics. If you stick with the black and white sheets, add a red bow for a pop of color.


Try swapping sheets of fabric for your usual paper. You can tie the wrapping closed with a pretty ribbon. This approach can be especially useful for gifts with unusual shapes.

Your recipient can display the fabric around the house or use it to wrap someone else’s gift. Crafty people might even choose to sew something with the piece.

Reusable Shopping Bags

For a wrapping option that can be used time and again, turn to reusable shopping bags. Stores offer many cute and colorful options these days, often for only a few dollars each. Your recipient might tote the sack to the store, the pool, the gym or the office. It’s like giving your friend a two-in-one gift.