The week before Christmas, I found out that wrapping paper, ribbon, and stickers are non-recyclable. Unfortunately, my discovery made not one jot of difference to the children's haul of already wrapped and ribboned presents under the tree, apart from making me wince and remain in denial. But resolving to do better in the future feels very good, so I did that and felt happier (mulled wine helped).
Now it's after Christmas, and I can feel the tentacles of hangover guilt reaching out to me from the exceedingly smelly and fly-ridden rubbish room in our apartment block. Our family is responsible for an entire two bin bags worth of non-recyclable wrapping material, not including plastic. I don't want to even think how much that means for the 80 million people in Germany (I just hope they're more environmentally aware than I am). There's some comfort in being a latecomer to the environmental party though--people have already thought about this conundrum, as thousands of ethically minded YouTubers can testify. Or not.
See, I was once also a young, childless woman with a rebellious piercing who cared about Important Issues. But twenty years later they seem to have a lot of time and resources on their perfectly manicured you-tubable hands. Pressed-and-dried flower decorations? Nope. Old Flannel shirts cut up to make ribbon? Nope. Flattened paper shopping bags tied up with garden twine? Nope. Old newspapers made exciting with designs in metallic sharpie pen? Nope. Ironed empty-but-washed-crisp packets glued onto coloured paper? Nope.
The more videos I watched, the more I despaired. I have none of these things. I have none of these skills, and I don't want them either.
I have re-useable shopping bags, too many of them because I forget them when I go to the supermarket and have to buy them every time. Digital Newspapers and Magazines on my cracked iPhone. Not enough flannel shirts to cut up and re-use to wrap presents for my humongous family. I do have a lot of blank print paper, printed paper from my Master's course in Times New Roman about Germany's political system. I also have what can only be described as impressionist artwork (on print paper).
Print paper is recyclable of course, so theoretically I could use it to wrap presents (without sellotape, because sellotape is
the devil not recyclable. So all presents would have to fit inside an A4 sheet). I could also just buy recycled paper from Amazon, but that conflicts with other ethical requirements especially here in Germany where they've made the headlines as a European sweatshop (btw, I love Amazon. Love it. Especially on my mobile phone at 3am when I've been woken by the baby. Sadly this is also an addiction I must find a way to quit).
With time restrictions therefore, my options are few; but I'm determined to make it work. After all between an apocalyptic future exploding in glorious glitter, and any other future where presents look like World War Two rations, I'll go for the latter.
Notes on Stuff to replace packaging
- Sustainable brown paper, recycled if possible (bought from a local shop--v. important). Q: Does the tube come wrapped in plastic?= bad
- Strong Foil (from a Japanese YouTuber, doesn't even require tape). Is recyclable in Berlin. Good for square things, seemingly. Looks a bit crappy when crumpled.
- Re-used old paper from gifts or packaging. Cons: Potentially really fiddly to get off. Have to tackle children, and educate family.
- Real Ribbon/Paper Ribbon, no sparkles.
- Paper Tape with natural latex glue instead of sellotape. Pros: recycled and recyclable. Cons: Have no idea where to find it apart from online.
Good Things About Dull Packaging.
- It makes the inside gift relatively more exciting (aka. book cover analogy)
- It's gender neutral (which is good, but is less good than encouraging boys to be accepted for liking pink unicorn paper and girls to be accepted for liking tractors. Or something like that).
- It requires less thinking at Christmas time.
- It helps save the world for our children.
- It makes me feel as if I've done Something Important.
Now where's the mulled wine...