Wrapping paper became a tradition at the beginning of the 20th century. Wrapping paper ballooned in popularity over the following century, and now huge industry, accounting for £1.7 billion a year (as of June, 2010) in retail sales. While wrapping paper can add pizazz to the perfect gift, it's also a major contributor to landfills.
Hallmark founded the gift wrap industry in 1917. Prior to that date, consumers purchased Christmas tissue paper in seasonal colours. When stores ran out of the tissue wrap, Hallmark produced the first wrapping paper from decorative envelope linings and sold it for 10 cents a sheet. Wrapping paper was Hallmark's second product: greeting cards were the first.
During the holiday season, running from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, households produce 25% more waste, sending up to 1 million tons a week of additional food, wrapping and bows to landfills. Gift wrapping and shopping bags are a large part of this additional waste and accounts 4 million tons per year of landfill waste.
Fifty per cent of all of the paper consumed in the U.S. is used for gift wrapping and decoration for consumer products. Two billion trees per year are cut down in the U.S. for this purpose.
Few places offer and option for gift wrapping recycling. Gift wrap is often laminated, dyed, or decorated with glitter, plastic, or other non recyclable adornments. Remnants of tape used to wrap gifts is often left on the wrap, making it unsuitable for most recycling facilities. Check with your local recycling facility to ask if they accept gift wrapping paper for recycling.
Other alternatives for non recyclable wrapping paper include: reusable paper bags or boxes, or home made wrapping paper made from paper bags and tied with string (discard string before recycling), tissue paper secured with string.