Ultimate Guide to Recycled Wrapping Paper Crafts

Rather than tossing the used wrapping paper at the end of a birthday party, you could save it to make bookmarks and ornaments.
Rather than tossing the used wrapping paper at the end of a birthday party, you could save it to make bookmarks and ornaments.
iStockphoto.com/Olessya Laskova

Opening gifts at a birthday party, baby shower or holiday event is thrilling. It's always a treat to discover what's lurking underneath that shiny wrapping paper. But after you've scored all the loot, you often end up trashing that huge pile of wrapping and tissue paper. Is there something else you can do with it?

In these green times, recycling is a helpful and popular choice. But some recycling centers are a bit picky about what they will and will not accept. Wrapping paper is often rejected from recycling programs due to the foils or metals that are embedded within the paper during production [source: Landwehr]. But don't worry if you can't recycle your wrapping paper the old-fashioned way. There are endless opportunities to reuse what you have.



You may remember at least one family member or friend -- you know who you are -- who unwraps each birthday or holiday gift very slowly. Suddenly, the tension welling inside you reaches a fever pitch. Will he or she like the gift? Hurry up and open it already! But instead, he or she patiently pops open the tape and folds the paper into neat piles. To properly save wrapping paper for future recycled paper crafts, you need to be a bit like this person.

Here are some pointers that will help you preserve your wrapping paper:

  • Use scissors or a butter knife to cut through the tape instead of popping it. This will help keep the paper from ripping.
  • Designate a shopping bag or craft box to store the paper in and place the bag next to you before you start opening.
  • Roll the paper instead of folding it to avoid unsightly fold lines. Keep the paper rolled using a piece of spare tape or a rubber band.

Now that you have your paper, it's time to get creative. In this article, we'll discuss using recycled wrapping paper to make bookmarks, ornaments, bows and wreaths. Let's get started by looking at one of the world's greatest simplistic inventions: the bookmark.

Recycled Wrapping Paper Bookmarks

There always seems to be an abundance of bookmarks until you actually need one. You can get free bookmarks from libraries, bookstores and corporate events. But do you really want to save your place in that incredibly interesting novel with something that has a random advertisement on it? In order to save yourself from total bookmark boredom, consider making your own from recycled wrapping paper.

The process can be simple: cut your desired shape from cardboard or cardstock and wrap it in the paper of your choice [source: Grover]. But, as with most arts and crafts, you can choose how intricate you want your final product to be.



To begin, you'll need to gather the following materials:

  • Wrapping paper
  • Cardstock or cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Glue or clear packing tape
  • Optional decorative items, such as stickers, photos or yarn and a hole-punch for tassels

Bookmarks come in all different shapes and sizes. The standard bookmark is roughly 2 by 6 inches or 2 by 7 inches (5.1 by 15.2 cm or 5.1 by 17.8 cm). You can use these measurements as the template for your bookmark, or you can let your creativity run free and use standard note cards, squares or wavy S-shapes.

To begin construction, trace or free-hand draw the shape of your bookmark onto the cardstock. Fold the paper over the bookmark to measure how much paper you will need (allowing a little extra for any mistakes) and cut. You can wrap the bookmark like a present or glue the paper to each side of the pattern and cut off the extra paper. You can also layer different papers on top of each other to create a decoupage effect, or you can add wrapping paper to one side only and use the other side to keep a list of which books you've read.

If you want to preserve the integrity of your bookmark, consider laminating it or covering it in clear contact paper.

Recycled wrapping paper bookmarks make great additions to any books you give as gifts or loan to others. Not a bookworm? Read on to learn about recycled wrapping paper ornaments.

Recycled Wrapping Paper Ornaments

When most people think of ornaments, they think of Christmas trees. Folding the wrapping paper into cones makes tiny tree or angel ornaments and cutting out snowmen from the paper design makes, well, snowmen ornaments. But we're going to challenge you to go one step beyond these classics. Ornaments can be used to decorate your home, office, nursery, deck or just about any space that could use a little charm.

Here's what you'll need to get started on this craft:



  • Wrapping paper
  • Cardstock or cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Glue or tape
  • Decorative items, such as paperclips, thumbtacks, brads, string, buttons, yarn, single earrings (if you've lost the other one), ribbons, feathers or sequins

Let's rethink the word "ornament" for a moment. Take your mind away from the Christmas tree and think instead about beauty. Perhaps you can design a small cat or dog ornament to go above the animal food dishes. Think about what makes you happy and then find a way to recreate those items with a decorative flair.

Do you want to fashion a simple bathroom ornament? We will teach you how using some of the materials listed above:

  • Take a standard note card and cut out enough wrapping paper to cover both sides. Glue the paper into place.
  • Cut along the edges of the card in a wave fashion to add shape to the ornament.
  • Trace the word "relax" onto a contrasting color of wrapping paper. Cut out the word "relax" and glue it to the ornament.
  • Hang spare earrings along the bottom of the card by poking them through right at the bottom. If all of your earring pairs are intact, you can glue buttons or other decorations under the word "relax."
  • Attach the ornament to a ribbon or piece of string using glue or a brad.
  • Hang the ornament where you can gaze at it from a hot, relaxing bath.

Homemade recycled wrapping paper ornaments can easily light up a stale office cubicle, a tiny kitchen or an unwelcoming entryway. All it takes is a few minutes of your time and some creative thought. But let's say you're in the mood for something with more dimension. Read on to learn all about recycled wrapping paper bows.

Recycled Wrapping Paper Bows

Nothing is worse than needing a bow at the last minute and realizing you don't have time to run to the store. A simple solution is to make the bow with recycled wrapping paper. All you'll need for this project is wrapping paper, tape and a stapler no matter if you want a simple or fancy bow.

Simple Bow

  • Cut a piece of wrapping paper about the size of a standard sheet of printer paper.
  • Cut three long, thin strips lengthwise.
  • Loop one strip over so the ends are touching and tape the ends together. Repeat with second strip. Take both pieces and tape the ends together to form the top of the bow.
  • Cut the third long strip in half. Tape each of the ends to the top of the bow, so they look like the ribbons coming out of the bottom.
  • For the center of the bow, cut a small strip of paper and tape its ends together to make a ring. Fix the ring to the center of the bow by making a ring of tape.

Fancy Bow

  • Cut wrapping paper into roughly 3-by-1-inch (7.62-by-2.54-cm) strips. Cut one additional small, square piece to serve as a placeholder for the center of the bow.
  • Loop each strip over and tape the ends together. Place them around the center placeholder in a circle with the loops on the outside. Add a few pieces of tape to hold them in place.
  • Repeat the process, adding additional layers of complete circles slightly to the right of the original loops. Keep adding layers until you run out of room.
  • Staple the center of the bow a few times to ensure it stays together.
  • Create one final center loop and tape it on with a loop of tape [source: Instructables].

If you don't want the back of the wrapping paper to show at all, you can cut the strips into extra long pieces and then fold them in half and glue them together before beginning the bow-making process. If you want to try something even more intricate, read on to learn about recycled wrapping paper wreaths.



Recycled Wrapping Paper Wreaths

Let's say you have quite a bit of extra wrapping paper that you don't need anymore. You bought a whole roll, but you only wrapped two presents. This is the perfect opportunity for you to make a wreath. Traditionally, wreaths are used as Christmas decorations, but you can also use them for parties, showers or just to hang on your front door.

To begin, gather your wrapping paper, one wire hanger, thick ribbon and glue. This project will take a bit more time than the more simple recycled wrapping paper crafts, so give yourself a good window of time for completion.



Here's how you'll go about making the wreath:

  • Bend the wire hanger so that it forms a circle.
  • Cut the wrapping paper into strips that are roughly 10-by-1 inches (25.4-by-2.54 cm).
  • Place a strip of wrapping paper around the wire, so that the center is touching the wire and the ends match up in your hand. Grab the paper right where it's touching the wire and twist. Think of it as wrapping a twisty tie around a pre-packaged loaf of bread. Since wrapping paper is fairly thin, it will twist around the wire easily, leaving the end pieces to flair out.
  • Repeat the process around the wire until the whole thing is full and fluffy with paper.
  • Straighten out the hook of the hanger, and glue the thick ribbon over it. You can bend the very top of the hook, so the wreath will hang from a wall or door, or another option is to clip off the hook of the hanger with wire cutters and hang the wreath as-is [source: Do It Yourself].

These projects are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to recycled wrapping paper projects. Let your creativity take over as you sort through your wrapping paper stash. Happy crafting!

To learn more, visit the links on the following page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Do It Yourself. "Make Your Own Christmas Wreath." (Accessed 04/13/2009) http://www.doityourself.com/stry/makingxmaswreaths
  • EPA. "Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2007." 2007. (Accesses 04/06/09) http://www.epa.gov/epawaste/nonhaz/municipal/pubs/msw07-fs.pdf
  • Grover, Shaun. "How to Make a Bookmark." (Accessed 04/13/2009) http://www.associatedcontent.com/video/819/how_to_make_your_own_customized_homemade.html
  • Hallmark. "History of the Christmas Ornament." (Accessed 04/06/09)http://newsroom.hallmark.com/Newsroom/History-Christmas-Ornament
  • Instructables. "Paper bows." (Accessed 04/13/2009). http://www.instructables.com/id/paper-bows/
  • King Size Bows. "About the Bows." (Accessed 04/06/09) http://www.kingsizebows.com/about.htm
  • Landwehr, Steve. "Recycling Christmas Wrapping paper doesn't have to be trashed." Gloucester Daily Times. 12/23/06. (Accessed 04/06/09)http://www.gloucestertimes.com/punews/local_story_357120515
  • Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. "Ornament." (Accessed 04/06/09)http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ornament%5B1%5D