Any wrapping paper that’s laminated, decorated with colored foil, or glittery can’t be recycled and must be sent to a landfill. This waste adds onto an estimated total of 25 million tons of extra trash that’s created during the winter holidays — which usually start with Thanksgiving and ends by New Year’s Day.
“The fancier the wrapping paper, the less recyclable it is,” says Jeremy Walters, the sustainability ambassador at Republic Services, to Mic. Republic Services is the second largest provider of waste disposal and recycling in the United States. “The challenge with the ‘fancy’ paper is that it simply isn’t all paper,” he explains. “Glitter, foil, and cellophane are made of plastic or metallic materials, and it’s impossible to separate them for recycling.”
So all that glam and glitter means sparkly wrapping paper is actually part-paper and part-plastic or foil. Each component of the paper is so small and mixed up with other materials that it can’t be sorted in the recycling facility. The glittery parts that are left in the landfills can end up contributing to the amount of microplastics that now pollute our food and water sources.
“Only simple glitter-free, non-laminated wrapping paper can go in your recycling bin,” he continues. But that doesn’t mean all your glitter goods should be tossed out immediately. “Once the gifts are opened, you should save and reuse glitter-laden bags,” Walters suggests. “This saves natural resources and can help you save money when the holidays come around next year.”
Gift givers should also try to reuse “cellophane wrapping paper, shiny bows, and ribbons because they can’t be recycled either.”