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Lots of Christmas wrapping paper can't be recycled. Here are seven ideas to help you avoid adding to the festive waste pile-up

Giving gifts is an essential part of Christmas – and a pile of beautifully wrapped presents piled up under the tree is a heart-warming sight.

But while unwrapping a present takes just a few seconds, the discarded paper could end up spending years in landfill – and it's one of the biggest sources of festive waste.


Lots of Christmas wrapping – including metallic or glittery papers, sellotape, and plastic ribbons and bows – can't be recycled.

But if you want to wrap your gifts in an eco-conscious way this year, there are plenty of alternatives to sparkly wrapping paper. Here are a few ideas.

Maps, magazines and newspaper

Old road maps make great wrapping paper. You could find a page with a loved-one's favourite holiday destination, or wrap a locally produced gift in a map of the local area. And old ordnance survey maps are ideal for a friend who loves walking or the great outdoors.

Magazines are another option. How about giving a green-fingered friend gardening gloves wrapped in the pages of a gardening magazine? Or try wrapping baking equipment or ingredients in a cookery magazine (even better if you choose a page that includes a recipe!)

Travel magazine pages, featuring an article about a place you know your loved-one longs to visit, are another option.

Even newspaper can look festive if you choose your pages carefully – colourful Christmas adverts for example – and finish with a flamboyant, fabric bow (which can then be saved and reused).

Christmas gifts in plant pots

Plant pots

Terracotta plant pots make an unusual container for a gift. They come in different sizes and are relatively inexpensive.

This is a particularly good idea for a gardening gift – seeds, garden string and plant labels could all be packaged up in a pot, topped with a terracotta saucer, and tied up with ribbon or string. The recipient can then use the packaging, as well as the contents, to grow their own veg or flowers.

If you're feeling creative you could even get to work with paints to decorate the outside of the pot with festive motifs, or a message for your loved one.

In the bag

Although they're usually coated with plastic, so can't be recycled, paper gift bags can be reused several times.

Paper gift bags do start to look a bit jaded once they've been passed on a few times though. So, if you like a project and are handy with a sewing machine, why not run up a batch of reusable fabric bags?

There are lots of lovely fabrics to choose from – including many festive designs. Look for 'fat quarters' (large squares of fabric traditionally used for making patchwork quilts) in local needlework shops or at Hobbycraft – this is a good way to get a variety of different designs for a reasonable price. Or search in charity shops for suitable fabrics and second hand clothes to upcycle.

How to make fabric gift bags.

You could also look out for attractive, reusable bags when out shopping. Some shops offer beautiful bags when you buy something – worth the five or ten pence charge, if they can be reused. And many shops sell inexpensive bags made from cotton or jute – packing a gift up in one of these will give the recipient two gifts in one!

Fabric Christmas gift bags

© Ministry of the Environment, Government of Japan. Click here for more Furoshiki ideas


If you like the idea of wrapping in fabric, but lack the needlework skills to create your own bags, a simpler idea is Japanese Furoshiki – the practice of wrapping presents in a cloth.


These folded cloths can be reused over and over again – once the art of folding them has been mastered. You can buy or make Furoshiki – fat quarters are useful for this too – or why not wrap a gift in a tea-towel, handkerchief or scarf, so that the wrapping is part of the gift as well?

Keep it simple

Support your local Post Office by buying brown parcel paper. Brown paper packages tied with natural string, such as jute, are a simple way to present gifts – and they can look lovely.


You can dress your packages up a bit by adding fabric ribbons, springs of greenery, or a large, colourful gift tag (last year's Christmas cards are good for this). Or make them more Christmassy with paints, ink stamps or felt-tip pens – a fun, creative activity that will keep kids busy!

Christmas gifts wrapped in brown parcel paper
Farne Islands puffin

See puffins on the Farne Islands, Northumberland, with National Trust membership

Recycled wrap

There are times when only a traditionally wrapped present will do. But it's possible to find 100 per cent recycled wrapping paper – and as long as you remove sellotape, ribbons and bows, some papers can be recycled.

All RSPB Shop Christmas wrapping paper is recyclable (glitter-free with no metalised paper), as well as being made from FSC certified paper and printed with water based inks. There are some lovely designs available – see

Nikki Strange produces gorgeous eco-friendly gift-wrap that, as it's not coated in plastic, can be recycled. The Winter Sprig and Celestial Stardust designs are wonderfully Christmassy – but could be used at any time of the year.

If wrapping gifts in paper, try to avoid using lots of sellotape – instead try fastening parcels with natural string such as hemp, jute or wool.

No wrapping required

Fortunately there are lots of gifts that don't need to be wrapped. These have little impact on the environment – and in many cases can have positive benefits too.

Oxfam Unwrapped offers a huge selection of gifts that will help others, from seeds to help a family grow their own food, to funding a child's education. Prices start at just £5, and gifts can be bought in Oxfam stores or online.

National Trust or English Heritage membership allows free visits to hundreds of properties: ideal for families who like to get out and about. Many other charities, such as the RSPB, offer gift membership too.

Award-winning charity Trees for Life can plant trees on behalf of your loved-ones, as part of its work to restore the Caledonian Forest in Scotland. Trees for Life's Plant a Tree gift card is £8.99 and makes a thoughtful last minute present.

You could treat your loved ones to a night out to remember, with Theatre Tokens that can be used at more than 240 venues nationwide, including all of London's West End.

Other ideas include cinema tickets, magazine subscriptions, or a day at a spa – all make welcome gifts and require no wrapping.

Nikki Strange Celestial Stardust wrapping paper
Nikki Strange Winter Sprig wrapping paper

Nikki Strange Celestial Stardust and Winter Sprig eco-friendly gift wrap

Little Green Space December 2018

Christmas gifts wrapped in old road maps