Is Christmas wrapping paper biodegradable? (7 advantages)

This blog will answer the question, “Is Christmas wrapping paper biodegradable?” Other covered topics include:

  • Is Christmas wrapping paper natural?
  • Is Christmas wrapping paper biodegradable?
  • Can you compost Christmas wrapping paper?
  • Can you recycle Christmas wrapping paper?
  • FAQs

Is Christmas wrapping paper biodegradable?

Christmas wrapping paper may or may not be biodegradable. It is made from wood pulp, a natural material taken from softwood trees, but may also be coated with a plastic layer called Mylar. 

It is because of this that Christmas wrapping paper is not advised to be composted. Normally, paper is a compostable material but the possibility of plastic materials on Christmas wrapping paper is what leads to this proclivity.

However, it is both possible and advisable to recycle Christmas wrapping paper because it is an efficient way to save waste, and resources, and manage energy consumption better. 

Is Christmas wrapping paper natural or non-natural?

One of the very important determinants of biodegradability status is the assessment of how natural a product or substance is. 

This is because there is a general understanding concerning biodegradability that natural materials are more prone to be degraded by microbes as compared to non-natural materials. 

The main reason behind this is that natural materials have nutritional content which is needed by the microbes. Biodegradation may be regarded as a symbiotic relationship where on one side, there is the feeding of microbes and on the other, there is the environmental protection from waste. 

That is why it is often concluded that products made from natural materials are biodegradable. This is often contrasted with products made from non-natural materials. The use of the derivatives of fossil fuels is one of the biggest reasons why products are called non-biodegradable. 

As regards our topic which is Christmas wrapping paper, it is usually perceived that since Christmas wrapping paper is paper, it is natural. 

Paper is a product that is made from the cellulose of wood pulp. This wood pulp is usually extracted from trees. There are two types of trees (softwood and hardwood trees) that are relied on for the extraction of wood pulp. 

However, although Christmas wrapping paper is paper, it is often quoted that there may be additional materials that may render the Christmas wrapping paper non-natural. 

One of them is the shiny coat (called Mylar) that is used to give a shiny texture and appearance to Christmas wrapping paper. Mylar is made from a plastic called PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) which is a non-natural material. 

To conclude, it is stated that although Christmas wrapping paper is made from a natural, plant-based material. But, there may be non-natural materials also used that may make the status of Christmas wrapping paper non-natural too. 

Therefore, consumers are advised to avoid Christmas wrapping papers that have extra shiny surfaces. 

What is the biodegradability status of Christmas wrapping paper?

Now, let us move on to our main question which is the biodegradability status of Christmas wrapping paper. 

It can be stated that if Christmas wrapping paper is not coated with any extra film of plastic material (such as Mylar) then it is biodegradable, otherwise, it cannot be regarded as biodegradable. 

As regards the time taken for Christmas wrapping paper to degrade, the answer also varies. Usually, materials from wood pulp can degrade in 3-6 months (which is impressive). However, the use of non-natural materials may impede, obstruct or slow the entire process.

For example, PET is regarded as a non-biodegradable material which may require more than 450 years to degrade. 

Before we move further, let us probe a bit more into the details and elucidations of biodegradability. 

Biodegradation may be introduced as the degradation that is brought about by bio. Bio means life. By life, microbes such as bacteria, fungi, algae, and protozoa are referred to. 

By definition, biodegradation is the breakdown of waste into simpler substances by the action of microbes so that waste may not accumulate and return back to nature’s system. 

However, not everything that is produced and used can be broken down by microbes. This is because microbes are living creatures that rely on only materials that they can use as food. 

Most of the synthetic materials are made from the derivatives of fossil fuels. These materials have no nutritional content and therefore, are not degraded by the microbes. Such materials are called non-biodegradable waste. 

Examples of this kind of waste include synthetic plastics, synthetic polymers, synthetic fibres et cetera. Such waste may remain in the environment for many hundred years. For example, PET may remain in landfills for more than 500 years. 

Is it advisable to compost Christmas wrapping paper?

Before we answer this question, let us dig a bit into the basic introduction to composting. Composting may be explained as converting biodegradable waste into compost. Compost can be introduced as dead organic matter. 

There are a multitude of applications and uses of compost. Compost can be used as a natural fertiliser. 

In a nutshell, the advantages of compost include: 

  • Conservation of water
  • Increase in organic content of the soil
  • Improvement in soil fertility
  • Promotion of plant and crops growth 
  • Economical benefits 

However, this is not that easy. In order to reap these benefits of compost, there are a number of conditions that you have to ensure are met aptly. 

These conditions include that the product to be composted must have a good amount of organic content, it should be not hazardous, it should be biodegradable, and it should not emit any harmful or toxic fumes. 

Usually, materials made from wood pulp can be composted because such materials align with all the mentioned conditions. However, the case of Christmas wrapping paper is a slight exception. 

This is mainly because of the use of substances such as Mylar in Christmas wrapping paper that may render the waste inapt for composting. 

As mentioned, Mylar is made from synthetic plastic and is non-biodegradable. Such material is definitely unfit for any type of composting. Therefore, it is advised and recommended that Christmas wrapping paper should not be composted to be on the safe side. 

Can you recycle Christmas wrapping paper? (7 advantages)

The next fundamental question that ought to catch the attention is whether it is possible to recycle Christmas wrapping paper or not. 

It has already been seen that Christmas wrapping paper can not be composted. There are better utilities for Christmas wrapping paper waste than just throwing it away in a garbage dump. This is because, in that case, the Christmas wrapping paper will end up in landfills, which is significantly an eco-friendly option. 

However, fret not! We have recycling to our aid because Christmas wrapping paper can be recycled even though it may be coated with PET substance

When Christmas wrapping paper is recycled, it is not needed to be made from scratch. This means that the source is not given any unnecessary burden.

Christmas wrapping paper is made from plant-based materials such as wood pulp or gum. When Christmas wrapping paper will be recycled then there would not be any burden on trees.

This will increase the possibility of decreased use of agrochemicals such as fertilisers or pesticides.

Also, when Christmas wrapping paper is recycled, half of the production processes would already have been done. This means that there will be decreased energy consumption. And because energy is mostly taken from fossil fuels, it would also mean that by recycling baking paper, there will be a decrease in GHG emissions.

This may mitigate the exacerbated environmental conditions and anomalies such as global warming, deforestation, and unprecedented weather patterns.

One factor that must be mentioned here is that recycling is regarded as one of the best solutions to deal with non-biodegradable waste such as plastics. 

This is mainly because when Christmas wrapping paper is recycled, the negative impacts of plastic coating on people and the planet are deterred, if only ephemerally. Hence, it is a win-win for both the Christmas wrapping paper and the plastic layer it may have on it. 

The advantages offered by the recycling of Christmas wrapping paper can be concluded in the following points: 

  • Less waste
  • Less energy consumption
  • Decreased GHGs
  • Decreased pressure on raw materials
  • Decreased use of agrochemicals
  • Decreased pressure on landfill
  • Better waste handling 

Christmas wrapping paper may be recycled by either disposing of them in recycling bins or by transporting them to the nearest recycling centres. 

You may also contact the recycling centres via phone or email and request a pick-up. That way, you would not need to go beyond limits to get your Christmas wrapping paper recycled.

Conclusion

It is concluded that Christmas wrapping paper may or may not be biodegradable. It is made from wood pulp, a natural material taken from softwood trees, but may also be coated with a plastic layer called Mylar. 

It is because of this that Christmas wrapping paper is not advised to be composted. Normally, paper is a compostable material but the possibility of plastic materials on Christmas wrapping paper is what leads to this proclivity.

However, it is both possible and advisable to recycle Christmas wrapping paper because it is an efficient way to save waste, and resources, and manage energy consumption better. 

Frequently Asked Question: Is Christmas wrapping paper biodegradable?

What is the best way to dispose of Christmas wrapping paper?

The best way to dispose of Christmas wrapping paper is to recycle it. For it, you may throw it in green dustbins or have it delivered to recycling centres. 

What is the degradation time for paper?

Paper may degrade in about three to six months. The exact time taken will vary based on external conditions. 

References

  • Beckline, M., Yujun, S., Eric, Z., & Kato, M. S. (2016). Paper consumption and environmental impact in an emerging economy. J. Energy, Environ. Chem. Eng, 1(1), 13-18.
  • Pommier, S., Llamas, A. M., & Lefebvre, X. (2010). Analysis of the outcome of shredding pretreatment on the anaerobic biodegradability of paper and cardboard materials. Bioresource Technology, 101(2), 463-468.
  • Vikman, M., Vartiainen, J., Tsitko, I., & Korhonen, P. (2015). Biodegradability and compostability of nanofibrillar cellulose-based products. Journal of Polymers and the Environment, 23(2), 206-215.
  • Ekinci, K., Keener, H. M., & Elwell, D. L. (2000). Composting short paper fibre with broiler litter and additives. Compost Science & Utilisation, 8(2).
  • Todini, Kristina. (May 08, 2022). Is parchment paper eco-friendly? Retrieved from: https://www.forkintheroad.co/is-parchment-paper-eco-friendly/#How_to_dispose_of_parchment_paper
  • Arcuni, Peter. (December 18, 2019). Can You Recycle Your Wrapping Paper? Here’s How to Tell. Retrieved from: https://www.kqed.org/science/1951672/can-you-recycle-wrapping-paper-heres-how-to-tell

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