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Business Victoria | 23 November 2021
The festive season is upon us, and with it comes the delightful but environmentally damaging tradition of gift wrapping. Tearing open a gorgeously packaged gift may give a momentary thrill, but it’s not doing the environment any favours.
In fact, every year Australians use 150,000 kilometres of wrapping paper – that’s enough to wrap the globe in paper four times over. During the Christmas period, the average Australian household generates 30 per cent more waste than normal.
The waste that we produce from packaging and wrapping materials is a big contributor but can become barely more than an afterthought once celebrations die down.
In a recent survey, 61 per cent of consumers said that sustainability will become more important after COVID-19, so taking action on sustainability is an important step to ensure the future prosperity of your business. This means it’s a good time for your business to review the environmental impact of the packaging and gift wraps you use.
But what kind of eco-friendly alternatives are available?
Never fear – we’ve collected some top tips on how your business can reduce its overall environmental impact this Christmas by reducing, reusing and recycling.
Sadly, not all wrapping paper is necessarily recyclable. A lot of it contains non-paper components like metallic coloured shapes, plastics, glitter and even velvet.
Intense dyes and inks on paper also make it impossible to recycle. Poor quality paper lacks the quality of fibres to be recycled properly; this includes tissue paper.
To stay eco-friendly, stick to recycled paper, cotton ribbon, raffia, jute, and avoid dyed materials. Keep an eye out for sneaky plastics like cellophane and any wrapping paper that looks as though it may be a mix of paper and plastic, and avoid incorporating these into a gift package.
Avoid glossy foil or metallic wrapping paper, which is not only non-recyclable but trickier to reuse given how easily it wrinkles and creases in the unwrapping process.
If you use tape, use it sparingly, or not at all. By avoiding tape, more of the wrapping paper can be reclaimed, and it’s easier for the recipient to save the wrapping for reuse. Instead, consider using ribbon, twine, or going tape-free.
There are plenty of alternatives for those who want to ditch wrapping paper altogether but keep their gifts looking like works of art.
Cloth tote bags are a triple threat that serve as an attractive gift package, extra present for the recipient, and merch for your business. Win-win-win!
For smaller in-store gifts, you can look at alternatives such as beeswax wraps, or Furoshiki, the Japanese art of fabric wrapping. Reusable gift packaging such as silicone bags, jars, baskets, and storage boxes can also offer a good opportunity to upsell a purchase and guide your customers to sustainable alternatives.
When wrapping and packaging for online orders, consider reusing shipping materials like boxes to avoid extra costs and plastic post bags. Rather than wrapping items in tissue paper or bubble wrap, you can consider using a recyclable paper alternative, such as honeycomb packing paper.
Unboxing can provide that wow factor when customers receive a gift, and provide opportunities for your products to be shared on social media, but steer clear of single-use plastics such as wrapped lollies and glitter. Single-use plastics are only enjoyed for a few moments, but their impact on our environment can last thousands of years. Consider using natural materials, such as native tree sprigs or dried flowers, or avoiding altogether.
We’ve probably all done it at some point. ‘Wishcycling‘ refers to chucking something into the recycling bin, hoping that somehow this makes the material recyclable, and it will all work itself out. However, this is not so.
In fact, aspirational recycling can render an entire batch of recyclables contaminated, forcing it all to be sent to landfill.
Ultimately, when in doubt, throw it out, and make sure you’re familiar with your local recycling rules.
Note that soft plastics that can’t be reused can be recycled at REDCycling facilities at supermarkets rather than being thrown straight into the bin for landfill.
Gift wrapping is as deeply engrained in Christmas tradition as Santa’s sleigh, and is unlikely to be done away with any time soon (for better or for worse). In the meantime, now is the perfect time to start adapting your business to a zero-waste Christmas, and a zero-waste future.