8 Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Unrecyclable Glittery Gift Wrapping

After the gift-giving season is over, do you know what happens to all the untied ribbons, the discarded tags, the trashed packages, boxes and bags?

Those familiar with the story of the Grinch may remember the residents of Whoville sending their garbage up to the top of Mt. Crumpet, where the green grump turned that trash into his own kingdom. You may also remember, it’s fiction. Sort of.

Data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency indicates that Americans generate 25% more trash than normal between Thanksgiving and the end of December, during which time many holiday gift exchanges are scheduled. And, while certain types of gift wrap are perfectly suitable for recycling, some of the more glittery wrappings pose serious threats to birds and marine life.

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Glittery gift wrap is not recyclable.

As KGW8 reports, many shiny papers are coated in plastic, making for rolls upon rolls of single-use multi-media packaging.

According to the Oregon Environmental Council’s Jamie Pang, “These teeny tiny pieces of plastics actually have the potential to enter our waterways and streams every time we wash our hands, wash our clothes, do the dishes. You think you’re just buying a Christmas bag, but not only is it not recyclable, it has the potential to harm fish and aquatic wildlife and birds.”

Lest your Christmas wishes get sidelined by the potential of landing on mother nature’s naughty list, there are still alternatives to flashy gift wrapping. Here are a few to try this year:

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8. Towels

Everyone needs towels, but few may realize that they provide a perfect concealer for holiday gifts. Moreover, choosing a style that compliments your recipient will double the impact of your gift.


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7. Tissue paper

Tissue papers with bright colors, sparkles, or striking whites may be made with dyes, bleaches or plastics, so you may want to steer clear of those, but you can’t go wrong with natural burlap-toned wrapping. Pair it with a red bow and a pine sprig and you have a beautiful gift that truly comes from the heart.

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6. Newspaper

Broadsheet newspapers are often the perfect size for wrapping small to medium boxes. Larger items may take a few more sheets, but that’s where a little tape can help you out.

Make sure you use the funny papers, and make sure you pitch it in the recycling bin when you’re done.

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5. Grocery totes

Wrapping small gifts in a grocery tote, secured by twine, is a great addition to any gift. It keeps the surprise hidden, and gives your recipient a potentially effective means of avoiding the need for plastic bags at the supermarket.


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4. Old boxes

Remember that year when you thought grandma gave you her old microwave? She knew what she was doing. In the age of online ordering, many may find a few boxes each month dropped off at their door. Don’t throw them out if they’ve still got some life left in them!

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3. Clothing

By wrapping a gift in a comfy or clever T-shirt, you’ll eliminate the need for packaging altogether. Now that’s something to celebrate!

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2. Jars

Glass jars can provide a lifetime of use, and they make great containers for smaller gifts. Tie some ribbon around the lid, make your own tag, or find a custom topper and you’ve got a truly memorable gift.


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1. Potato chip bags

It may seem like a stretch, but the foil lining of a chip bag makes for a glamorous gift wrap. You just have to turn the bag inside out and clean it with a little dish soap. Reusing items keeps them out of the landfill and oceans, which is the ultimate goal, but it also spreads the spirit of conservation during a season when we may need it most.

Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.

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