It’s a Wrap!

The Environmental Center


Good things come in small packages, right? The best things, however, come in reusable or recyclable packaging. At least that’s what we believe here at Rethink Waste Project.

Years ago someone gave me a box of fine Belgian Chocolates. As a chocolate lover, the gift was welcomed and thoroughly enjoyed. The box, however, became the gift that keeps on giving. It is a pretty sky blue box, with a sturdy flip-over lid. I used it to give my friend Peggy a Christmas gift years ago, and ever since it has become the gift-wrapping of choice for our birthday and Christmas presents. Whichever of us has the box is expected to use it for the current occasion for the other. This Christmas, I have the box and have been planning the present for her accordingly. It has to fit in the box.

In our household, we also reuse the same gift bags within the family over and over again, and it is actually amazing how long a paper gift bag can last when it’s neatly stored in-between gift-giving. I have also used fabric remnants, Sunday comics, used wrapping paper and even blankets for wrapping presents, with a nice, big bow made from reusable ribbon to crown the present.

The point is – when you buy gifts, think about what kind of packaging surrounds it. Is it something that can be recycled? Reused? Or will it become another pile on the landfill? Ask yourself the same questions regarding your gift wrapping. Here’s a Naughty & Nice list for the common gift wrapping materials:

NICE (can be recycled )

  • Regular wrapping paper – recyclable in your comingle bin (be sure to take the tape and ribbons off). The not-so-nice thing is that all these rolls of wrapping paper equal a forest somewhere, so you may want to rethink it.
  • Cardboard boxes – recyclable in your comingle bin. You may find free boxes on Craigslist or other online classifieds.
  • Fabric – reusable. How about some cute tea towels or hand towels to use for wrapping? Or a scarf? Or mittens with a ribbon tied at the end for smaller presents? Or old jeans cut up to make a cool gift wrap for your teenager (and reused for patches or other sewing projects later)? Fabric bags are easy to make and can be reused and if you’re not the sewing kind, a Christmas stocking as the wrapper becomes a gift in itself.
  • Food tins, such as hot cocoa or cookie tins can be reused over and over again.


NAUGHTY (can’t be recycled unless otherwise mentioned)

  • Wrapping paper or gift bags with metallic accents or glitter (reuse if you receive)
  • Tissue paper (reuse if you receive)
  • Plastic gift bags (reuse if you receive)
  • Packing peanuts or bubble wrap – can’t be recycled in commingle, BUT you can check with your local shipping shop (such as Mailboxes, etc.) to see if they accept them for reuse. Or, you can offer them for free on Craigslist (if you can resist the urge to pop the bubble wrap to a worthless piece of plastic).
  • Cellophane (reuse if you receive)


Check out for some creative reuses for gift wrapping.

And remember, it is the thought that counts!

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

No Comments

  1. Yoleen on December 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    As long as I can remember, our family has had a wrapping paper box, one that comes out year after year, holding all the wrappings from Christmas past. It is a delight each year, sifting through vintage wrapping paper to find the right one, the right size, for this year’s gifts. As the years go by, a sheet of wrapping paper will grow smaller as the margins are carefully snipped off where tape has marred the edges. Revisiting wrapping paper from the 70’s and yes, 60’s is really special.

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