spotlight on WRAPPING PAPER

spotlight on WRAPPING PAPER

Tracey BanksDecember 03, 2019

What’s The Wrap?

227,000 miles a year

Consumers in the UK will use 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year – most of this will end up in our bins.

108 million rolls binned

This in turn means that the average household will get through four rolls of wrapping paper. With Brits will also bin what equates to 108 million rolls of wrapping paper.

40 million rolls of tape used

All of this wrapping paper creates a need for a lot of sticky tape as well – with some estimates putting this at around 40 million rolls! This is the equivalent of a roll-and-a-half of sticky tape being used per household!

Recycle The Wrap?

It’s paper - but, wrapping paper is typically too light and inky for efficient recycling, and if it includes foil or plastic many recyclers won’t accept it anyway.

As is the case in North Herts, the instructions from NHDC are: Please note Christmas cards and wrapping paper should not be placed in your recycling bins / boxes, as we do not accept them for recycling.

Why The Wrap?

Wrapping an ordinary object is what transforms it into something extraordinary. This practice of cutting, folding, and fastening paper transcends cultural boundaries and religious doctrine – and it is millennia old. The wrapping of gifts has become an experience, a way humans have learned to frame objects to designate them as special.

That’s how wrapping paper works: It frames an object as a gift. It is what turns, for example, the gift of a book into a gift itself. A book without wrapping paper could just as easily be on a library shelf or a bedside table. After all, even that homemade jam still requires a bow to signify that it is a gift.

The art of gift wrapping has been around for centuries. From its origins in Asia, where the first bits of paper date back to Ancient China in the 2nd Century B.C; to Japan, where the traditional reusable wrapping cloth called the "Furoshiki" has been around since early 1600s; as well as in Korea, the "bojagi," a traditional wrapping cloth made of silk, is said to have been around since around 60 B.C.

Up until the early 1900s, brown paper was typically used as wrapping paper for gifts and purchased goods.

Because adhesive tape wasn’t invented until 1930, it wasn’t as easy to wrap presents back then as it is today. Early gift wrappers had to skillfully secure wrapped packages with string and sealing wax.

The Western emphasis on gift-wrapping emerged in Europe and the United States during the Victorian age, when it became fashionable to enclose presents in tissue and pretty bows.

In 1917, having sold out of tissue paper in their retail store in the lead up to Christmas, Rollie and J.C. Hall (founders of the greeting card company Hallmark) supplied customers with fancy coloured envelope linings as an alternative, which were extremely popular, and this caused decorative wrapping paper to be quickly added to their line of products.

Swap The Wrap

It’s hard for most to imagine a gift without its decorative paper casing, despite the persuasive environmental arguments against wrapping paper.

So what are the alternatives?


Use the other heavily disposed of type of paper - Newspaper. Give it a second lease of life by wrapping up all your thoughtfully-chosen presents. Some simple string tied in a bow or a sprig of holly for the old-world look or clever folding & cutting for a modern take...


What about all those paper bags strewn around after your Christmas shopping spree? Take off the handles, undo the seams and hey presto, you’ve got brightly coloured wrap for free.

The same goes for cardboard boxes, too. Turn cereal boxes (or other cardboard *Amazon* packaging) inside out, decorate et voila!


There’s a huge selection of recycled papers, if you look beyond the glitter & foil plastic-coated rolls in your local supermarket, (that you in turn can reuse or recycle too) to suit all tastes and xmas wrapping schemes.

You can get recycled brown paper at your local Post Office or WHSmith

Traidcraft – as well as looking great, it’s ethically made and fair trade, handcrafted from recycled paper by a co-operative in Nepal.

Re-Wrapped - specialises in designing and producing a range of top quality wrapping paper and other products, made solely from 100% recycled paper. Supporting the non-profit sector and 5% of all our profits go to charity


It’s not just the paper that’s wasteful - it's all the tape & decorations that come with nicely wrapped presents too.

Instead of plastic sticky tape, use natural twine or paper tape, which can be recycled. Find sustainable strings in craft shops, avoid metallic, glitter or plastic versions as they aren’t recyclable. Eco-Craft does a wide selection of colourful, natural and biodegradable twine

Make bows and ribbon out of old newspaper or magazines


As well as the obvious reuse of previous years’ wrapping paper & bags, the other reusable option is Fabric.

Fabric is the ideal gift wrapping. It’s a genius way of using scrap or purchased material, and looks very fitting under the tree.

Tips for ready made wrapping size: Hobbycraft for ‘fat quarters’ of material; Christmas napkins / tablecloths

Master An Ancient Art

When it comes to gift-wrapping furoshiki is the perfect way to convey thoughtfulness of present giving through the care taken in the choice of wrapping and in the way the fabric is folded and tied.

The word furoshiki means 'bath spread' dating back to when the cloths were commonly used in bath houses to wrap clothes and as a bath mat. 

Western culture is beginning to pick up on furoshiki and, once master, it's apparently even quicker than paper wrapping!

Including some instructions on how to tie a furoshiki as part of your gift is recommended - this ensures your furoshiki is high chance of being passed on and spreading and eco-friendly fabric wrapping message on its' journey.

Image: Japanese Department of Environment

Cheat with Ready-Made

If you are looking for a short cut to knots and more used to tying presents with ribbons, then Fabric Wrap with Ties attached may be more appealing: 

Happy Wrap Instructions

Etiquette of Reusable Fabric Wrap

Basically, there are no rules:

  • keep them in the family - can give safe in the knowledge you'll get it back at the next festive occasion
  • make them part of the gift - passing it on to spread the reusable love throughout the world
  • just ask for them back – if you know they really aren't the kind of type to reuse the wrap, that's probably OK to ask for it back

it’s a whole new gifting etiquette & it’s all good!

Ditch The Wrap

If you are brave enough, confident enough or just plain ready, #CutTheWrap is a campaign to encouraging people to gift naked – by skipping the wrap & gifting in original packaging.

unpckd recommends:

reusable fabric gift wrap

Paper Wrapping Tape

paper wrapping tape

paper parcel tape 





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