Wrapping Up for Christmas?

How do we ethically wrap our Christmas and birthday presents?  The wrapping paper industry must be huge, especially at this time of year.

Unfortunately most local authorities will not take wrapping paper for recycling.  Bristol City Council say that they do not recycle it because it is such low grade.  I may not be right on this one but I think ‘low grade’ means that the fibres are very short.  The longer the fibres, the better the recycled paper will be.  (As an aside, this is why you should NEVER tear paper before you send it for recycling.  If it’s got confidential information on it then shred it and put it in your compost bin, or your friend’s compost bin if you don’t have your own)

So I decided not to buy Christmas paper this year.  We recently bought a roll of plain wallpaper in order to cover a very small area of ceiling so had loads left over.  The plan was to use that, illustrated by Christmas stamps (those with inkpads, not those for the Royal Mail – although this is an idea!).  I was quite looking forward to it.

The best laid plans …….. We went up into the loft as part of a pre-loft clearout recce and unfortunately found a BIG bag of Christmas wrapping paper.  Although the temptation to ‘lose’ the evil stuff was strong, it would be more ethical to actually use it.  So this year it’s back to using the proper (no doubt very cheap) stuff.  Of course I can’t control what the recipients do with it, but at least in Bristol we will fold it neatly and put it in the black bin from where it will be burned and produce electricity for the city.

So what are the alternatives to wrapping paper?  Before I trawled the internet for ideas I came up with:

  • Leftover wallpaper (plain or decorated)
  • Save the packaging from online orders – it’s often plain brown and can be decorated
  • Incorporate the present into the wrapping. Eg if you’ve bought a scarf or a tea towel, wrap the whole present in that.
  • Have scraps of material in the house? Use them (re-usable).
  • Buy your recipients a re-usable shopping bag and put the present in that.
  • Decorate a cardboard box from the supermarket or a shoebox.
  • Buy brown paper (recyclable with cardboard).
  • Use a re-usable gift box
  • Use newspaper or magazine pages.

Then on the internet I found:

  • Old pillow cases? Thread a string through to make a sack
  • Maps damaged or no longer used? Use them as wrapping.
  • Make a packet from a loo roll.


  • Sheet music no longer needed.
  • Use Plant Pots!!!

Plant Pots

  • Getting rid of any books? Use the pages (unless the book is in good condition and useful to someone else).
  • Find out how to fold waste paper into a bag here



  • And the best one ever – using an empty crisp packet! It only works with the foil-lined ones.  See the instructions here.

Crisp packet

There’s loads of ideas all over the internet – just carry out a search.  I’d love to hear if you have more techniques.

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