There are several things you can do with used wrapping paper. One thing you should never do with it is burn it. Burning glossy or waxy paper, especially if it is brightly colored or has a metallic finish, can release highly toxic chemicals into the air. For more information, visit our Heating with Wood pages. Below, we have put together a guide for the best ways to dispose of wrapping paper and packaging.
The best thing you can do with wrapping paper is remove it carefully and put it away to reuse it on another package. That may be difficult in many cases, especially if kids are the unwrappers, so your next best option is to recycle it. Unless it's the kind that has foil or some kind of waxy lining, most paper, including wrapping paper and tissue paper, is recyclable.
The third option is to compost it. If you have an active compost bin, you can compost many kinds of paper. If it is not glossy, does not have a plastic, waxy, or metallic coating, and is not shockingly bright (officially known as Astro bright), it can probably be composted safely. Generally, if it tears easily, it's okay to compost it. In fact, in order to compost it, it is best to shred it as small as possible. Also, the paper rolls the wrapping paper is packaged with can be composted if torn into small bits.
The boxes those gifts come packaged in can also be recycled. And if they are very plain, some people will use them for sheet mulching in their gardens. But, again, boxes should also never be burned, because of the inks used to decorate them and the glues they contain.
Below is a quick reference chart to help guide you.
Last updated July 17, 2014