Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but can also be one of the messiest - in more ways than one! A key issue is the waste produced from present wrapping, decorating and knowing what can and can’t be recycled afterward. IEMA’s Senior Media Officer Tim Farmer unwraps some ways to be more sustainable this season.


First off, I want to talk about how great and sometimes bittersweet Christmas is – the warm fuzzy excitement woven throughout the season, especially the build-up, the way people show and share love with one another – even strangers, gifting someone something to show what they mean to you, families and friends coming together, remembering loved ones, the songs, the food, the decorations, the reflective services...I could go on!! But there are issues attached to this season too...

An especially magical moment is when you’re exchanging gifts and there’s a glorious mountain of wrapping paper and ribbons strewn all over the room, amidst the squeals of appreciation for the uncovered gifts. But where does that myriad of mess then go?!

Firstly, let’s talk Sellotape. Whether it’s clear, scotch, invisible, or masking tape (yes, I’ve known a friend to use this – as well as duct tape!) it’s not suitable for recycling. So, what to do? How do you replace it with something more eco-friendly? Well, there is washi tape and other alternatives out there, which are paper-based and therefore can be recycled. There is also a way to wrap your Christmas pressies without using any kind of tape. There are many videos online that show fancy and sometimes complicated ways to fold the paper in order to not even need ribbon and hats off to those who can do this, I am not one. I have taken to simply wrapping presents the way I would but instead of taping it all down, folding the paper more tightly and then tying the ribbon around the present to keep the paper securely closed around the gift. (see some pictures below)


What about ribbon? Well, like with Sellotape, you could opt for something paper-based, like raffia or simply keep the ribbon and reuse them for other occasions or next Christmas (something my family and I are a little obsessed with!) Ok, so that’s sorted, but what about the paper itself?

There are some issues when it comes to the type of wrapping paper you use. Nowadays, the brand will normally let you know if it’s suitable to recycling or not, but generally, anything with a metallic or non-tearable texture won’t be suitable to recycle, due to the elements used to make it.

So, without plastic-based tape or ribbon, you can easily pop your Christmas wrapping paper and ribbon into the recycling! Some other ideas to bring a little touch of sustainability to your gift-wrapping could be to use oven-roasted orange slices, off-cuts from the Christmas tree, holly (maybe not for the kids!) or cinnamon sticks to decorate your present. These can then be added to food waste or compost (either in your garden or in your garden waste itself).

If and how you celebrate, here’s wishing you a very Merry Christmas!

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Tim Farmer

Senior Media Officer, IEMA

Tim Farmer is the Digital Content Officer at IEMA, with experience in social media and email marketing, blog writing and press releases.