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Can you recycle wrapping paper?
We throw away an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year at Christmas in the UK, according to waste management company BIFFA.
That's enough to wrap around the Earth... more than eight times.
But it brands itself as paper - so surely it all just gets recycled?
The short answer? Not always.
And that's because gift wrap often contains much more than simply paper.
"It's a nightmare for paper mills this time of year," confesses Simon Ellin, the chief executive of the Recycling Association - a trade body that represents around 90 different paper merchants, waste management companies and other businesses involved in recycling paper.
That's because while they're presented with mountains of wrapping paper, they cannot work with all of it.
"Not all wrapping paper is paper," Simon points out. Some is plastic-based.
Then there's the issue of paper that's laminated with plastic not to mention gift tags or paper that contains foil or glitter, none of which can be recycled.
But once you've removed these items you can recycle a good deal of what you've wrapped your presents in, just as long as it's pure paper.
How do you check? Try to scrunch up the paper into a ball. If it scrunches, and stays scrunched, it can probably be recycled.
And if you've bought recycled wrapping paper in the first place, it can probably be recycled again.
So you've got recyclable wrapping paper - what do you do with it?
Even if your paper is recyclable - not all councils will take it.
Some will let you put it into the recycling collection. Others insist you bring it along to a recycling centre.
You'll need to check with your local authority. To find out which one takes your rubbish, click here for England and Northern Ireland, here for Wales and here for Scotland.
But could we do better than just recycling?
Well, we could make sure that the paper we buy in the first place is made from sustainable sources. This means that it hasn't resulted in deforestation or environmental damage.
You can look out for FSC-certified wrapping paper and other Christmas items such as cards and crackers.
Even better would be to not throw the paper away in the first place - but reuse it.
The Environment Agency has suggested that you make your own wrapping paper, as this encourages reuse: "How about getting creative using potato stamps to decorate parcel paper and adding a sprig of holly for that Christmas feel."
Or you could try to avoid wrapping paper altogether. Furoshiki are traditional cloths from Japan which are used to wrap presents instead of paper. The cloth can then be reused in future years or even given as a gift itself.
Candy Packaging: A Trick or a Treat?
The holidays are often a time for giving into guilty pleasures, and for many of us that means indulging in one too many treats. As we enter a different kind of holiday season with a heightened focus on food safety amid a pandemic, there’s a greater emphasis on the need for keeping the food protected properly, including the wrapping on your favorite sweets and candies. As a result, a unique dilemma has emerged – what do we do with all the packaging, especially since much of it can’t be easily recycled through traditional methods?
The “Scare”: The Packaging We Need is Difficult to Recycle
Candy wrappers are primarily designed to keep products fresh and safe for consumption, and in the case of softer treats like chocolate, help maintain form and avoid the messes that might result from melting. Many of these wrappers are made from innovative solutions that combine different materials like aluminum, paper and plastic. This mixture of materials is highly effective at maintaining quality, and keeping packaging weight to a minimum, but it presents a real recycling challenge.
The other aspect of the challenge here in the U.S. is accessibility, while in other parts of the world they’re a few steps ahead. In Australia, for example, soft plastics from many chocolate and lollipop wrappers are recyclable through the Red Cycle collection bins available at most supermarkets. The wrappers are recycled and then used to make products like benches and fences.