At Christmas time Australians use more than 150,000 kilometers of wrapping paper – enough to wrap around the Earth’s equator almost four times according to a 2017 Survey by CARE Australia. However, by the end of Christmas day, this overwhelming amount of gift wrap is merely making our bins overflow. Day 16 is exploring ways to embrace the spirit of giving whilst breaking the annual cycle of generously giving 8,000 tonnes of wrapping waste to landfills across the country.

Why can’t wrapping paper be recycled?

You may have thought as I originally did that wrapping paper is essentially paper – so it can be recycled. Yet, these days Christmas wrapping paper is coated in a plastic layer or comes as plastic cellophane, metallic wrapping, foil or paper coated with glitter and therefore cannot be recycled.

Paper can only be recycled 5-7 times

Wrapping paper made from 100% paper can be recycled in your yellow lid bin, even if it has sticky tape attached. But, once in your yellow bin the paper can only be recycled about five to seven times.

Why is this? Well, paper is made up of long fibers, so every time it is recycled, those fibers will be shortened and make it harder to be recycled the next time. After five to seven times, the fibers will become too short and can’t be made into paper anymore. From that point, it can be made into more of a paper paste and can be used for things like egg cartons.

To prevent binning Christmas wrapping this year, below are a number of waste-free options for decorating your presents!

1. Present hunt

Image source:

Ditch gift wrapping altogether this Christmas and instead hide presents around the house and create a digital treasure hunt with clues for the kids to find them. It will be just as fun as ripping paper, occupy the kids for longer and generate zero waste!

2. Material

My own Furoshiki Gift Wrapping!

Furoshiki gift wrapping is a Japanese tradition and is a beautiful alternative to wrapping paper. If you don’t have material lying around your house, check out your local op-shop for some bargains on material (check out map on our Day 5 post), also Reverse Garbage had some lovely material options for very reasonable prices. Instead of buying material how about making the wrapping part of the gift by using things like scarves, tea towels or beeswax wraps. Alternatively if you have some old t-shirts or ones that are a bit too sad to be donated, below is a great tutorial on how to make furoshiki (Japanese wrapping material) from upcycled t-shirts.

Another idea is to make some gift bags out of materials you already have. has a step-by-step guide to make these bags.

DIY Gift Bags : Photo Source:

3. Raid your garden!

We heard about an amazing wrapping paper idea from James Blyth co-founder of Sun & Soil Organic Gardening and facilitator at Jane Street Community Garden. James regularly teaches and maintains a vegetable garden at Bulimba State School and he developed a cool way to show the kids how to craft their own gift wrap using leaves and flowers from plants, a mallet and calico material.

By placing leaves between two pieces of calico on a hard surface, using a rubber mallet and some arm work, you repeatedly hit the leaves or flowers until the natural dyes start to ooze out and colour the fabric. This was also a great way to teach the kids about the names of the plants and show them how to make their own reusuable wrapping material for their parents for Christmas!

Experimenting with making reusable Christmas wrapping paper with the grade 3s this week at school. By folding some vege…

Posted by James Blyth on Monday, December 2, 2019
Reusable wrapping material by using plants and flowers – James Blyth, Sun & Soil Organic Gardening

4. Recycling bin raid

If you are still keen on paper wrapping, there are fantastic options to be found right in your recycling bin. Who gives a crap toilet paper have some great designs on their packaging that can be instantly reused this Christmas. Old food containers are also a great option : due to my unhealthy obsession with hummus, I have plenty of hummus buckets which, thanks to Liz’s amazing baking and help, were able to be transformed into Christmas cookie packs by decorating with used Christmas cards.

Cereal boxes, old maps, music, takeaway packaging, council newsletters, bus timetables, mushroom bags, newspapers or magazines – there is plenty of paper lying around the house that can instantly be reborn as gift wrap. If you have kids, I’m sure your fridges and some rooms are full of their artwork. Why not re-purpose their amazing artwork as Christmas paper or gift-tags this year? Not only will it add a nice personal touch, but it will help clear out your stocks for more summer art pieces!

One thing to keep in mind is if you do wrap with paper – tie up gifts with reusable ribbon or string rather than using sticky-tape. Not only does sticky-tape not degrade – it tears paper which makes it harder to reuse the paper for next year. Check out this video by The Clean Collective on how to wrap gifts without sticky-tape.

Gift decorations

To top off your beautifully wrapped pressies, rather than reaching for the traditional foil curling ribbon – which cannot go into your recycling bin, why not try out some of the edible and compostable natural material ideas below, each image has a linked tutorial to guide you through making each of these gift toppers!

Mushroom bags decorated with cookies and rosemary ( source:  )
Dried or Fresh flowers : Photo Source:
Dried spiced orange slices Photo Source:
Bells Photo Source:

Share with us!

Today’s feature image is from an article by City of Sydney News, it reminded me of what our lounge room floor looked like after Christmas present unwrapping each year and we always (without even thinking anything of it) filled one or two garbage bags just with wrapping paper and cards before Christmas lunch even started!

Let us know if you have any other gift wrapping ideas to unpack for this festive season!

2 thoughts on “Day 16: Reframing Gift-wrapping”

  1. Last year my Mum sewed everyone cotton shopping bags and used those as wrapping paper. Everyone was stoked coz it was like getting two gifts in one :).

    Thanks for all the tips so far.

    1. That’s an awesome idea Christina! Did she use an online pattern or just create it from memory?

      Glad you’re enjoying reading the blog for Christmas. 🙂

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