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For many the festive season is associated with opening beautifully wrapped gifts, lots of food, merriment and quality family time. From gorgeous paper to handwritten cards, Christmas time is about indulgence, reflection, and nostalgia.

But, have you ever thought what happens to all of the paper that gets discarded quicker than what it took to gift-wrap the presents under the tree?

According to the Institute of Waste Management of Southern Africa, South Africa produces 108 million tons of waste per year. A total of 90% of that waste ends up in landfills and only 10% of waste is recycled. Furthermore, only 3.3% of South Africans actively choose to recycle.

The holiday season is as good a time as any to try to cut down on what we waste. You could go cold “Christmas” turkey by adopting a Zero Waste mentality. Or, a more manageable and simple strategy for many, you could start small by looking at ways to reduce, reuse and recycle your gift wrapping paper.  Below are a few key tips on how you can get it right, this festive season.


With paper being one of the few truly sustainable products the simplest thing to do would be to recycle old wrapping paper. If you choose to recycle it may be worthwhile to consider the following:

  • Check that the paper and gift packaging is in fact recyclable.
  • Do not mix any wet waste products such as food with the paper you are recycling.
  • Have a plan for what you will do with the recycled paper. It can either be collected or dropped off at a drop-off station.
  • Let all guests and family members know that you recycle; this could inspire them to do the same.


Christmas wrapping paper is generally quite distinctive, however, by buying a plain red, gold or green roll you could reuse leftover wrapping paper for birthday presents or to cover children’s school books ahead of the new academic year. This could ease the stress on your pocket in January when the ‘back to school’ season is in full swing. Alternatively, keep the leftover wrapping for arts and crafts projects.

Storage tip: Simply slide empty toilet roll tubes over rolled up wrapping paper to keep them from unraveling, then store in a safe place.


YouTube and Pinterest have made everyone DIY masters. Here are a few fun and simple ways to repurpose Christmas wrapping paper – simply look up a few tutorials online:

  • Shred it: Cut or tear up your old wrapping paper and use it as colourful parcel inserts, whether for gifts or protecting fragile goods for transportation.
  • Create Christmas tree decorations with your old wrapping paper: You could either use old saved wrapping for this or the leftover offcuts from the gifts you wrapped for this season.
  • Make paper flowers: Get crafting by making your own version of these trendy showstoppers at parties and weddings.
  • Bring life to your old drawers and bookshelves by lining them with wrapping paper.

Donate it

As it is the season of giving, why not donate old and leftover wrapping paper rolls to charities who provide Christmas parcels and gifts to the underprivileged?

The need to repurpose waste has become a necessity. Yet, the festive season is renowned for excess and wastage. By keeping it simple and following the above steps, you reduce your footprint on the environment this holiday season.