Opinion: Wrapping paper is bad and wasteful | Opinion | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Opinion: Wrapping paper is bad and wasteful

click to enlarge Presents wrapped in a City Paper, a tabloid, and pages from a page-a-day calendar - CP PHOTO: HANNAH LYNN
CP Photo: Hannah Lynn
Presents wrapped in a City Paper, a tabloid, and pages from a page-a-day calendar
The holiday season is full of waste, from uneaten leftovers to plastic gifts that will be trash in a year. According to Washington University in St. Louis, Americans produce 25% more trash from Thanksgiving to Christmas than the rest of the year. Wrapping paper is especially useless; its only purpose is to conceal the surprise of a gift for the brief period between when someone sees that they’ve been given a gift to the moment that they open it. So much nonsense gets a pass this time of year because it’s tradition or whatever, but consider giving up at least some of your shiny, glittery trash.

Personally I have not used wrapping paper in years. I think it’s much for fun anyway to give a gift wrapped in a portrait of Jennifer Lopez I cut out from a magazine.
Most wrapping paper is not recyclable. If it contains glitter, metallic paper, lamination, or other additives to pure paper, it can likely not be recycled. Additionally, if the paper is covered in tape, which it often is, it is difficult to recycle. Ribbons and bows can also not be recycled. The website Recycle Now offers suggests the “scrunch test” for determining whether or not wrapping paper is recyclable (if the paper stays scrunched in ball, it can probably be recycled.)

That’s a lot of restrictions and effort to determine whether or not wrapping paper is recyclable, and I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that, no matter how careful you are, most wrapping paper is not getting recycled (unless you have a family that carefully unwraps presents so you can use the paper again next year, which is good too.)


A big part of taking action against climate change is reducing waste, and reducing waste means changing some ingrained habits, even if it makes things less pretty. (Though personally, I think a gift wrapped in a portrait of Jennifer Lopez cut out from a magazine is much prettier than snowmen.) Instead of relying on the idea that a piece of waste will get recycled, when you have no idea if it ever actually will be, cut out the thing that needs recycling in the first place.

Instead, try wrapping presents in whatever paper products you have lying around that will eventually get thrown out anyway. I know you might be thinking “but then my presents will look like they were wrapped by an orphan in a Dickens novel!” Who cares! Wrapping paper and its various accessories are just the gateway to getting a present. They don’t affect the quality of the present, or the thought you put into it, or whether or not the recipient likes it.

Here is a list of material you can use to wrap presents:
  • Pittsburgh City Paper
  • Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
  • Magazines (Rolling Stone, People, New Yorker, AARP, etc.)
  • Phone books that you still have somehow
  • Old dictionaries
  • Catalogs
  • Flyers about Jesus someone handed you on the street
  • Pages from the calendar you’re about the throw away
  • Old posters
  • A bunch of your business cards taped together
  • Photos of your ex that you’ve vandalized
  • Old shirts or sheets
  • Fabric scraps
  • Photos of the recipient’s ex that you’ve vandalized
  • Plain white paper

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