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6 Ways to Repurpose Wrapping Paper (When You're Not Crafty)

5 min read

Holiday gift-giving is a cherished tradition that brings families and friends together. We love finding and packaging the right gift in festive wrapping paper and bows. Never mind that the wrapping gets demolished within moments — we love how the beautiful presentation expresses our affection. But what do you do with leftover wrapping paper after giving gifts?

Did you know Americans send about 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper to our overflowing landfills yearly? We discard enough wrapping paper to circle the earth nine times each year! There must be a better way. Consider the green gift-wrapping suggestions in our post about making holiday celebrations more sustainable. Check out six ways to repurpose wrapping paper, even if you’re not an accomplished DIY crafter.

Can Wrapping Paper Be Recycled?

You can recycle wrapping paper so long as:

  • It’s not metallic
  • It does not have glitter
  • It does not have velvet-like flocking

You don’t even have to remove the tape to recycle wrapping paper. Ribbons, however, are another matter entirely. Ribbons cannot be recycled, and they can wreak havoc with recyclables-processing machinery.

While recycling is one answer to what to do with leftover wrapping paper, let’s look at some fun and simple ways to repurpose wrapping paper for a more sustainable approach. No super-crafter skills required.

Charming Drawer and Shelf Liners

Protect the surfaces of your shelves and drawers with a festive, colorful lining made from old wrapping paper. It’s a brilliant way to reuse practical and stylish paper. Just measure the space you want to cover, cut the paper to fit, and lay it down. Fold the ends under for a finished edge using double-sided tape to secure it in place. Consider a clear layer over the paper for added durability for drawer liners. Pro-tip: Wrapping paper with glitter is no more welcome in drawers and shelves than at the recycler. The glitter will get on everything. No worries — we have other ways to repurpose wrapping paper with glitter.

Snazzy School Book Covers

School textbooks are typically used and reused by different students for years. That’s why book covers are recommended to protect the covers throughout several rounds of use. Add flair to your student’s books by making covers from old wrapping paper. It’s an easy way to reuse paper with no crafting skills required:

  • Lay out the paper: Place the old wrapping paper decorative side down. Open the book on its back, on the paper. Measure the book’s width by wrapping the paper around the closed book. Add 2” to the book’s height and 4” to the width.
  • Cut the paper: Cut out the paper according to your measurements.
  • Fold to fit: Fold the long edges to match the height of the book. Then, fold the short edges to accommodate the closed book. This creates pockets for the book’s cover to tuck into.
  • Attach the cover: Slip the book into your new cover and adjust for a snug fit.

Festive Confetti Creation

Breathe new life into old wrapping paper by transforming it into confetti. Creating confetti is a fun and simple DIY wrapping paper project requiring no skill. It’s perfect for small, mismatched scraps of paper and entire rolls. Cut the colored paper into thin strips. For added dimension, pleat the strips in an accordion style if you’d like. Then, cut the strips into small pieces up to an inch in length. Now — you’re ready to celebrate! Toss the confetti at your next party or scatter it along the tables as an elegant splash.

Upcycled Paper Bows

As we mentioned earlier, ribbons and bows are not recyclable. But when you repurpose wrapping paper to make your bows, these can be recycled. There are so many paper bow tutorials on YouTube. You can find a zillion styles. Let’s start you off with a simple way to reuse paper by making a stylish paper bow:

  • Trace a circle onto the old wrapping paper using a tumbler, a can of soup, or a bowl. The diameter of the circle will be the width of the bow.
  • Cut out the circle.
  • Cut a strip of wrapping paper 1” by ¼.”
  • Accordion pleat the circle from one side to the other in small pleats.
  • Pinching the pleated paper in the center, wrap the 1” strip around it, securing it with a dab of glue.
  • Fan out the pleats on each side of the bow.

Festive Protective Packaging

Skip the Styrofoam peanuts (estimated to last 500 years in our landfills) and protect fragile objects with repurposed wrapping paper. Cut the old wrapping paper into slim strips. Add accordion pleating to give it more dimension. Adds lots (and lots) of crinkled strips of brightly colored paper to cushion fragile items for gifting or shipping.

Homemade Christmas Tree Ornaments

You'll love these elegant, homemade Christmas tree ornaments if you still wonder what to do with leftover wrapping paper. This simple way to reuse paper can be enjoyed for years, especially if it has glitter. You’ll need some clear glass Christmas balls in addition to your old wrapping paper.

  • Cut the paper into strips about ¼’’ wide. Curl the strips like ribbons or accordion pleat them (who knew this was such a useful skill?).
  • Carefully remove the hanger of the ball and poke the colorful paper strips inside until it is filled to your liking.
  • Replace the top.

Your homemade Christmas tree ornaments are now ready to sparkle on the tree. Or pile them in a bowl with a string of battery-powered Christmas lights to glow on your mantle. We have more simple decor tips perfect for renters.

There’s so much to keep track of at this time of year — gifts, decorations, food, family, and home safety tips for the holidays. We’re happy to pitch in however we can, from what to do with leftover wrapping paper to reviewing your home insurance policy to be sure you’re fully covered.

Happy holidays!

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