The conscious consumer at Christmas

Are the days of wrapping paper numbered?

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You can’t beat that feeling of excitement on Christmas Day when you finally get to rip open your pile of lovingly wrapped gifts. But what if there was an alternative to the mountains of waste that gets accumulated, with all that glittery wrapping paper going straight into the bin? Much of it isn’t even recyclable if it includes sticky tape, plastic, dye, foil and glitter.

Robert Lockyer, a packaging entrepreneur in the luxury retail sector, believes the days of wrapping paper could soon be behind us as consumers and businesses around the world make more effort to end unnecessary waste. In a bid to ban micro-plastics, retail giants Waitrose and John Lewis have announced they will no longer stock Christmas crackers containing plastic toys from 2020. Marks & Spencer pledged that glitter would be removed from all its Christmas cards, wrapping paper, calendars and crackers this year.

Moves like these continue to have an impact on combating the environmental crisis the world is in. But should we be doing more?

Robert, the chief executive officer of Delta Global, a luxury packaging provider for companies such as Fortnum & Mason, Ted Baker and Estee Lauder, gives his take on the future of our much-loved festive tradition.

“Gift-giving is associated with joyous occasions, and it’s that built-up feeling of excitement that means the ‘unboxing or opening’ element which wrapping paper creates is the most important part of the experience,” said Lockyer.

Around 41% of UK shoppers say they choose what to buy based on a brand’s sustainability credentials and whether they match their values. An ‘eco-friendly’ guide to gift wrap, published by the Metro last year, suggested recyclable alternatives to those with plastic-coated finishes; for instance, using brown postal paper, re-using old fabrics and tote bags and adding natural finishes such as dried leaves and flowers. This added a new excitement for buyers – homemade and hand-crafted touches that were personal.

“Across many industries, we see a trend in the second-hand market,” said Lockyer. “Last month, Selfridges partnered with Vestiaire Collective to open a permanent in-store space dedicated to pre-loved luxury fashion where you can pick up designer items at half the price. I predict a surge in second-hand offerings for consumers hoping to go more sustainable during the festive season. With increasing amounts of shoppers wanting different themed decorations on an annual basis, I envisage swap or spend schemes for second-hand Christmas decorations in-store and online.

“As it has in the fashion industry, this will encourage the production of more high-quality items which will last longer and be used time and time again in multiple households,” Lockyer said.

The waste that wrapping paper creates is shocking. According to Sundale Research, US shoppers are spending a total of US$ 12.7 billion on gift wrap. As well as the expense, most wrapping papers are lined with plastic. Decorative papers that include microplastics like glitter can end up in our oceans and can be fatal to marine life, and the chemicals in certain inks make them non-recyclable. Sticky tape and laminated bags and tags also contribute to the tons of unrecyclable materials.

If a brand is going to the effort of creating a sustainable product and packaging it in a recyclable or re-useable box or bag, it might eliminate the need to wrap it again.
He suggested adding simple touches that make your gift stay in the hands and homes of the receiver for longer.

An artistically designed re-usable box, beautifully accessorized with a paper ribbon or 100% cotton handle, can help a gift stand out, as could a cardboard gift tag with a personal message that transforms into a sustainable bauble or a plant a tree program.

“The right packaging can guarantee your product is the first thing picked off the shelf and the most talked-about item under the tree. It will ultimately do its job in removing unnecessary unrecyclable gift wrap, which clogs our landfills at Christmas,” Lockyer said.

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