Can You Recycle Wrapping Paper With Tape?

Can You Recycle Wrapping Paper With Tape?

No, you cannot recycle wrapping paper with tape.

If you wish to recycle festive paper, you must remove the tape and all other add-ons before sending it to a treatment facility.

In simple words, while wrapping paper may be recycled, it cannot be recycled if covered with any unrecyclable materials, such as tape.

Wrapping Paper with Tape and Recycling

Wrapping papers are heavily used all over the world, and America is no different. Studies show that Americans use 4.6 million pounds of festive paper to prepare presents in a year.

The reported figure is enough to conclude that wrapping paper is used a bit much in the country.

The heavy use of festive wrappings means there must be a system for disposal, because most people don’t keep the covering once they have taken out the gift. The solution for this is municipal recycling.

Most users throw out the wrapping papers they remove from presents into the big blue bin next to the pavement.

Doing so is certainly a responsible act, as it keeps trash away from landfills. That said, sometimes tossing wrapping paper into a recycling bin may not be the right thing to do if the paper carries contaminants. 

Paper becomes unrecyclable when synthetic additives make their way into the organic pulp that was transformed into paper form. 

Generally, paper manufacturers use organic additives, which is why it remains recyclable. 

However, that may not be the case when it comes to wrapping papers.

Wrapping paper is processed a lot more than regular paper to get its festive appearance and sheen.

Due to this, it may turn unrecyclable, but even when that doesn’t happen, external bits attached to it, such as tape, can render it unrecyclable.

Simply put, typically paper and wrapping paper are both recyclable, but if contaminants are added during the production process or later, they turn unrecyclable.

This means you shouldn’t send wrapping paper for recycling when you are not sure about its composition.

Regular Wrapping Paper

Regular wrapping paper refers to the most basic form of festive covering used to wrap presents, one without ribbons, bows, or glitter.

It is recyclable and can be sent out to any local recycling facility. However, if the piece you have has tape attached, you must remove the external add-on.

Tape is not recyclable for obvious reasons.

First of all, if its sticking ability is intact, it can block the sorting machine and pause the recycling process, but in most cases, when tape is shipped off for recycling, it has lost its stickiness.

Besides that, translucent tape is unrecyclable because it’s made of plastic, and since you cannot be sure about the recyclability of the plastic used, you cannot get it recycled.

Long story short, tape is not recyclable. That said, it must be noted that when we say tape, we are only talking about the transparent tape used to wrap gifts.

The treatment protocols for paper tape and other tapes are a different story altogether.

Therefore don’t confuse the different tape types for one another and assume that all of them have the same properties.

Wrapping papers are hardly held in place with paper tape, so the only form of tape we’ll discuss in this article is the transparent one. 

Coming back to the recyclability discussion of standard wrapping papers, they are recyclable unless ribbons or tapes are attached. 

Fancy Wrapping Paper

Fancy wrapping paper is typically used during the holiday season when people are buzzing with excitement, which also translates to the super colorful and festive paper used for wrapping presents.

It is either covered in glitter or has ribbons attached to it. Besides glitter and ribbons, fancy wrapping paper may have embossed designs, rendering it unrecyclable.

Lastly, it is worth mentioning that, at times, a fancy wrapping sheet might not have any of the features discussed above and may only have a colorful design, but even then, it will likely not be safe for recycling because of the dye.

Super fancy wrapping paper has a heavy concentration of dye that will contaminate recyclables if it ends up at a recycling plant.

Therefore, even if you have the most basic form of fancy wrapping paper, don’t assume it’s recyclable, and instead repurpose it. (More on this later in the article).

Sometimes flashy wrapping paper is further adorned with washi tape, which is a relatively new phenomenon that has gotten incredibly popular.

Washi Tape and Wrapping Paper

Washi tape is a long strip of paper (rolled like regular tape) with different designs on it like you see on a wrapping sheet. Whenever you want to use it, you remove a piece from the rolled washi tape and stick it on.

Since washi tape is essentially a type of tape, it’s only fair to wonder if you can recycle the fancy tape. The answer to that question is a resounding yes.

Unlike transparent tape, washi tape is typically made with renewable rice paper, making it 100% recyclable. So if you remove some washi tape from a present, don’t worry about its disposal.

If you cannot reuse it (which would be possible if you remove it gently), you can just put it out for recycling.

To sum up the discussion, if you have regular wrapping paper with tape, you cannot recycle it.

However, if you find washi tape alongside wrapping paper from a present, you can recycle both the items retrieved.

The only caveat to remember is that you can only recycle wrapping paper which doesn’t have any fancy add-ons or synthetic additives.

How to Ascertain If a Wrapping Sheet Is Unrecyclable

A simple wrapping sheet with no festive designs is generally recyclable as it doesn’t have additives.

However, if you want to be sure that the paper you put out for the curbside recycling service is safe for treatment, perform the scrunch test.

The Scrunch Test

The scrunch test is a popular technique that tells you if a piece of paper is recyclable or not.

Take the sheet you wish to get recycled and crumple it up. If it reverts to its original shape and doesn’t stay crumpled, it is not recyclable.

When paper has bits of plastic or other synthetic compounds, it always returns to its original form when scrunched up. Therefore, try this method to ensure you can send a wrapping sheet for recycling.

The Soaking Test

While not as quick as the scrunch test, the soaking technique is also fairly effective for finding out if a paper sheet is recyclable or not.

Cut up pieces of the wrapping paper you want to test and drop them in a bowl of water. Let the bits remain in the water for a while, at least 20 minutes. 

After enough time has passed, check the pieces. If they have lost their structural integrity and acquired a mush-like consistency, they are recyclable.

If you find them to be as they were at the beginning of the experiment, know that they are unrecyclable. 

If you are thinking about how to recycle a mushed up sheet of paper, here is what you need to know:

You don’t have to soak the entire wrapping paper in the bowl of water; cut only a few pieces to check if they reduce to a mulch-like state or remain the same.

Once you have the answer, you can decide what you want to do with the rest of the sheet.

Repurposing Unrecyclable Wrapping Paper

There are multiple ways to reuse wrapping sheets to avoid sending them to the already heaping landfills. 

Drawer Lining

Many people prefer to line their drawers and cupboards with some lining when storing their belongings.

If you also belong to that group of individuals, you can take old wrapping sheets and cut them out according to your drawer size to line it. 

You can use the same technique for kitchen cabinets or other storage units you want to line.

Make Christmas Decorations

Want to decorate your Christmas tree on a budget? Cut out different shapes from old wrapping sheets, punch a hole on top and pass a string through it, and voila, you have a decoration piece ready.

You can even use these homemade ornaments to decorate your house. For instance, weave multiple wrapping sheet cutouts on a thread or string, then hang them on a wall.

If you make a bunch of these woven décor items, you can hang them above the threshold of any door in the house, like a curtain of sorts.

Alternatives to Wrapping Paper

With the growing awareness regarding environmental degradation, many manufacturers have come forward with biodegradable paper products, such as reusable wrapping sheets. 

Reusable wrapping paper is essentially a piece of colorful cloth that is used to wrap gifts. It can be reused numerous times for gift wrapping, and even after that, you can repurpose it.

With all that said, it must be noted that biodegradable or reusable paper doesn’t necessarily mean compostable. Unless a product comes with such a claim, don’t add it to your compost pile. 

Ending Note

Although standard wrapping paper is usually recyclable, it becomes unrecyclable with additives and attachments, such as tape.

Therefore, be sure to remove everything from a wrapping sheet before chucking it in the recycling bin.

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