Zero-waste wrapping ideas for Christmas

We get through a whopping 227,000 miles of wrapping paper every Christmas in the UK, of which 83km2 of this will end up in our bins. When you think of the amount of trees we need to produce that amount of paper – only for it to go in the bin – it doesn’t make all that much sense. We’ve put together some ideas for you to avoid buying wrapping paper altogether, plus what to do with wrapping paper once you’ve used it. 

A wrapped Christmas present, with a red ribbon around it. There's an empty tag attached to it.


A lot of wrapping paper can be recycled, with the exception of shiny metallic and glitter paper. Recycle Now recommends doing the scrunch test to make sure you can recycle it; just scrunch up the paper and if it stays scrunched then it can be recycled. If it springs back, then it's likely to be plastic and can't be recycled. If you’re recycling paper, take off any tape, ribbons or bows as they can’t be recycled. 


Save wrapping paper, as well as giftable tissue paper, ribbons, bows and decorations to use again next year. You can also save old Christmas cards to use as present tags next year; simply cut out the front illustrations, punch a hole in the corner and attach string. 


Fancy fabric into DIY wrapping

It’s become all the rage to use wrapping scarves in place of paper, but rather than buying the fabric new, repurpose a colourful pillowcase, a tea towel or clothes you don’t use anymore to make into wrapping. Check out Furoshiki – the Japanese art of fabric origami – using unwanted textiles. If you only have plain fabric, stencil on Christmas patterns or turn an old potato into a stamp for festive printing. 

Upcycle packing paper 

If you’re ordering presents online, you might end up with meters of useless brown packing paper that comes stuffed in your parcels. Use the paper to wrap presents simply, then decorate with natural decorations, such as pine cones, holly, twigs or fresh rosemary or flowers, all of which can be recycled or composted afterwards.

Newspapers, magazines, old maps…

Use the colourful pages of an old magazine, go retro with the weekend paper or tear apart an old road atlas you don’t need anymore. 

Crisp packets?

Yep, save up your empty crisp packets and turn them inside out for some festive sparkle (clean them well first of course!).

Reuse cardboard boxes

If you’re shopping online, no doubt you’ll have boxes of all sizes arriving at your door. Rather than recycle them, upcycle them into gift boxes instead. Paint them or cover with last year’s used wrapping paper, magazine pages or old maps (see above). Here are 7 more ways to get creative with old cardboard

Canvas bags: wrapping and gift all-in-one

Reusable canvas bags are super-useful and can double up as wrapping and a gift all-in-one. Use them to wrap a gift, which your loved one can then use for years to avoid using plastic bags. 

For more sustainable Christmas ideas, check out our 2020 gift guide.