After a fantastic Christmas with my family in 2017, the buzz I was experiencing at the end of the day was hugely dampened as I tried to stuff the last of the wrapping paper into our landfill bin. The year before I’d put a bag of giftwrap out with the green recycling bin, but whoever had collected the recycling that week dumped the bag of giftwrap back onto our front path – apparently Edinburgh council don’t recycle giftwrap, and the more I looked into it, not many cities do!
Why can’t I recycle wrapping paper?
It turns out there is more than just paper to wrapping paper. Many are packed with other materials like glitter, foil, plastic, dyes, plus the amount of sellotape remaining attached to the paper makes it very difficult to recycle. According to Recycle Now a lot of the existing recyclable wrapping paper is so thin it contains few good quality fibres for recycling.
If using paper, you can do the “Scrunch test”, meaning if you screw the paper up into a ball and it remains screwed up, you can recycle it. However if it slowly opens up after squashing into a ball, this shows it is made of mixed materials and therefore un-recyclable.
When I realised how difficult it was to recycle, this was when I came across some horrifying statistics regarding the waste produced at Christmas time alone. In the UK ALONE, 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown into landfill each year. To give you an idea of how long that is, it’s over 9 times around the circumference of the Earth. Or almost 90% of the way to the moon. Shocking right?
It was these statistics that drove me to look for an alternative.
What can I do to reduce Christmas wrapping waste?
The way to stop this amount of waste from entering the environment is to REDUCE or REUSE. Either stop using giftwrap completely, or find a way to wrap gifts in a sustainable and reusable way.
We didn’t always have such a wasteful culture, but a growth in consumerism and single-use products have made it incredibly easy for this kind of behaviour to proliferate and become the “norm”. I must point out that I am including myself when describing this behaviour, I never really questioned using straws in bars or throwing single use coffee cups in the bin (and using reams of wrapping paper!). It was because I was surrounded by this behaviour. I didn’t know there was any other way. But now I’m educating myself about these alternatives and becoming aware of the impact my choices were having on the world, I now feel it’s my responsibility to change my behaviour.
How will Furoshiki help reduce waste?
I mentioned in my previous blog post that the Japanese have been using fabric to wrap objects and gifts for centuries. Western culture has become very used to the easy and cheap single-use culture of recent years, but I feel like by allowing ourselves to be educated and inspired by traditions and practices shared by other cultures, we can find ways to change our world for the better. I was so inspired by learning about Furoshiki and how it can be used as a paper giftwrap alternative.
So here’s my list of reasons why I think Furoshiki use can improve giftwrapping all year round!
- It’s beautiful. I love the thrill of wrapping up a gift and seeing the look on the recipients face at the effort and thought that has been put into the wrapping, and I think Furoshiki wrapping ticks this box!
- It’s forgiving. Have you ever tried wrapping an awkwardly shaped gift in paper? Does it end up looking like a sack of tatties? (Potatoes for those of you not from Scotland)…! Fabric is much more forgiving than crisp wrapping paper. It drapes beautifully around gifts, hugging the contours so even the most oddly shaped present can end up looking pretty decent!
- It saves time. One piece of fabric, one gift, one pair of hands… that’s all you need. There’s no faffing about with strips of tape all lined up along the coffee table, losing the end of the tape and getting cross, no cutting up paper and then realising you’ve made it a little bit too small… I found that each gift wrapped last Christmas took half the time than it would with paper, meaning more time relaxing before Santa arrives on Christmas eve!
- It’s saves money. Of course it’s cheaper to buy single use anything, and wrapping paper is no exception. But by investing in a few Furoshiki wraps which you use within you family forever-more will save you LOADS of money in the long run.
- It’s REUSABLE. Each household in the UK uses 4 rolls of paper during an average Christmas. It doesn’t seem like much for an individual family, but cumulatively the environmental impact is huge. In the UK we throw 5 MILLION TONS of wrapping paper into landfill each year. How many carbon-reducing trees went into making that quantity of paper? Imagine the positive impact we could have if we just reused wrapping instead of dumping it?! This is where fabric gift wrap is such a great option- It’s strong enough to remain durable and reusable over the years, and after a quick wash and iron it stays looking good as new.