Holiday Tip: Don’t Recycle Gift Wrap

From the gift's perspective

Obviously, we don’t usually like to tell anyone to not recycle. But in the case of gift wrap, it’s better to reuse, or not use at all.

A common mistake many people make around the holidays is loading their recycling bins with wrapping paper, tissue, ribbons and more. Unfortunately, the shiny, laminated paper is actually not recyclable. Including it in the bin with other paper products can make an entire load unrecyclable.

Don’t worry, there are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives. Check out our guide to greener gift wrapping to learn more.


  1. When I reuse wrapping paper I call it (not exactly correctly) recycling and so wondered why I was not supposed to do that. I read your piece and have a suggestion. To avoid the confusion and to relate the message even to people who don’t go as far as reading the piece, re-title the piece something like: Gift Wrap- Reusable, maybe Not Recyclable. I put in the “maybe” as the tissue and printed regular paper can be recycled, it is the foil and the ribbons that need to be removed.

  2. WARING! This is inaccurate information.

    Wrapping paper IS recyclable. While it is indeed best to reduce the amount of waste by not using paper if not needed, it is not true that wrapping paper is laminated, even the shiny stuff. Do not throw your paper in the trash, wrapping paper is shiny in the same way that magazines are shiny – it’s done with a buffed clay process that does not render the paper unrecycleable. If it were laminated, it would be encased in a film of plastic on both sides that would be very obvious.

    There is some wrapping paper that is not recylable, such as the stuff that is made of foil and paper together. But that is very rare these days. Ribbons, bows, etc. indeed are not recyclable.

    If you have questions about recycling, call your local jurisditional government in charge of systems in your area.

    1. i got a gift wrapped in shiny wrapping paper and it was indeed a plastic layer over paper. i was able to separate the 2 layers and the plastic part was Mylar-like. a laminated product is not necessarily encased on both sides. it can be laminated on one side only.

  3. Hmm, I’m not sure what kind of wrapping paper is “laminated,” most of it is just shiny paper due to inks or clay (unless there is some kind of foil on it) and does not include plastic. It may be true that it isn’t accepted many places, but we certainly recycle it like it’s going out of style in Portland. Kudos to you for recommending alternatives. Wrapping paper is certainly a waste (even if it is recycled) when there are plenty of reusable materials out there. Just a reminder that options for recycling vary from state to state and even among local jurisdications!

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