The unsustainable side of unwrapping gifts

Ripping open Christmas wrapping paper is without a doubt one of the most thrilling things that both children and adults look forward to. It adds a touch of shine to your gifts and conveys holiday cheer. However, as the gifts are exchanged and unwrapped, the magic fades and all that’s left is a heap of waste.

The founders of Hallmark Cards, Hall brothers Rollie and Joyce Hall, obviously did not invent gift wrapping, but their innovations have led to the development of what we know as wrapping paper today. Gifts were traditionally wrapped in brown paper, newspapers, or even cloth in the early twentieth century. The Hall brothers sold tissue paper for gift wrapping in a business in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, until they ran out in 1917. They then moved on to envelope liners, which they sold out of as well. They came up with the notion of printing their own colorful gift wrap a few years later. In 1917, they are credited with establishing the modern-day gift wrapping industry.

Wrapping paper demand spikes over the Christmas season. However, the majority of wrapping paper is not recycled, and a large portion of it ends up in landfills. After Christmas in 2018, it was projected that the UK threw away the equivalent of 108 million rolls of wrapping paper. Christmas generates an additional five million tonnes of waste in the United States, with four million tonnes of wrapping paper and shopping bags. Each year, consumers in the United Kingdom use around 227,000 miles of wrapping paper and discard 108 million rolls of wrapping paper. Each year, it is estimated that 50,000 trees are felled to manufacture enough wrapping paper.

The low recycling quota appears to be something that has gone out of style. It is estimated that recycling all of the wrapping paper waste would save 70% of the energy used in manufacturing it from raw materials. One tonne of recycled paper saves 17 trees, 18.7 square feet of landfill space, and 4,000 kilowatts of energy.

So, what is it that keeps us from recycling more wrapping paper?

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