In the newest trends that keep evolving, every person wants to keep their feet a step ahead of others. Nowadays, people like to organize parties for literally every minor and major occasion. Sometimes, the intention behind such an elegant celebration is just to meet their loved ones. In all this, one thing remains unchanged forever. Wonder what is that?
It is that one thing which people from all age groups love, a beautiful present. This gift can be incredibly simple or elegant, depending upon the person’s preference.
There’s one thing that comes to help modify a gift to make it look fancy, and that is wrapping paper. Occasionally, gift shops charge their customers extra amounts too for the same purpose. You must be wondering why there is a need to put so much effort into a simple gift.
We’ve got all answers for you here. It is important to put some effort because your gift’s ambiance and presentation speak volumes about your attitude and affection towards others. Imagine if someone gives you a simple candle stand with messy gift wrapping, which doesn’t seem neat. You’re not going to like it. There is a similar manner of psychology involved.
But always remember that you don’t have to use heavily priced papers, with bright colors for the same. Sometimes, an Eco friendly, dull-colored brown paper can do wonders if it is wrapped neatly. This is to ensure its neat and organized appearance.
As we use these wrapping papers on a large scale, especially during the festivals, you must be wondering if these wrapping papers are good for the environment! If so, then are they biodegradable?
In this article, we are going to discuss this in detail!
Is wrapping paper biodegradable?
The answer to this question can either be a yes or no. This is so because not all wrapping papers are biodegradable. The biodegradable wrapping papers do not contain any type of hazardous chemicals or toxins.
On the other hand, some such papers contain these chemicals. Due to the involvement of these toxins, those papers become non-biodegradable. Papers which are made due to recycling are rich in brown hardwood, and they get easily disintegrated in the soil.
But papers that are made up of plastic sheets and other heavy metals do not disintegrate easily. Accordingly, all wrapping papers are not biodegradable.
Why is it essential to use biodegradable paper?
Biodegradable substances refer to those items which can easily be decomposed. These items do not cause any harm to the existing environment and lead to the promotion of a sustainable lifestyle by following three principle R’s: reduced, reuse, and recycle. Hence, the biodegradable paper follows the same criteria, and it is highly cost-efficient as it requires little to no resources for production.
Most importantly, these papers fall under the category of being entirely free of harmful toxins. This helps provide businesses with hype because the sole purpose of buying a great product for a customer is not to compromise on its quality.
To decompose a piece of paper, use a shredder to cut the paper into tiny portions. Later, dig a hole or use a bin to put these materials in it. Afterward, add some amount of water to the pile so that it can start to decompose. Within some weeks, you can observe that the paper will quickly begin to decompose in the most organic way possible.
Is brown paper better than wrapping paper?
Yes, brown paper is always a better option than wrapping paper. There are several reasons to support this statement. First of all, brown paper is made from wood pulp which is finally cut into shaves. Hence, it is 100% natural because it contains no toxins and chemicals.
Along with this, it has greater durability and strength than wrapping paper. It is so because wood pulp provides the paper with the necessary strength to tackle and cope with some rough pressure.
Brown paper is not bleached, which also puts it in the category of being fully organic and safe for the environment. This paper promotes a sustainable environment, and it takes comparatively less time to decompose.
Wrapping paper takes slightly longer than brown paper for the same. Not only this but a tremendous number of papers are made up of some harmful chemicals and toxins that negatively impact the environment. Brown paper can look dull, but it can be customized with colored markers and inks easily.
Types of wrapping papers based on their materials
1. Toxic chemicals
Most wrapping papers are made up of VOCs. Now, you must be wondering, “What does it mean?”
It refers to volatile organic compounds, and these mixtures are emitted in the gaseous state from the solid papers.
These destructive compounds can be found in formaldehyde and benzene.
Many times, these poisons become the cause of skin and respiratory ailments. PFAs (Per-and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) also pose an alarming threat to an individual’s health. Such substances are being used in the food wrapping papers enormously these days.
In almost all the big brands and food chains, surveys have shown the usage of PFA’s on a wide range. This causes contamination as it does not break down naturally. PFA’s affect human health adversely by sickening their immune system or by depleting their tendency to fight a certain disease.
The ecosystem also suffers a setback as the reproductive capabilities of organisms start to decline drastically. These toxic substances result in causing cancer too. Sometimes, the hormonal functions also get disturbed, and the fertility rates get suppressed. These chemicals can easily transfer into different elements of the environment, which are soil, water, and air.
2. Heavy metals
The presence of heavy metals in wrapping papers is another major threat to the environment. Metals like iron, aluminum, cadmium, copper, chromium, manganese, lead, zinc, and molybdenum are extensively used to make sheets of wrapping papers.
But do you know that there’s a specific set value for each of these elements? Above this particular value, the impact of the metal causes harmful ailments. If these elements or heavy metals are used in excess, they become highly volatile on coming in contact with air.
This volatile nature results in health hazards for animals and humans. They also become unable to decompose properly, leading to their soil accumulation. With rainwater, these heavy metals reach into rivers and fields where aquatic life and plants get destroyed.
On a general note, such metals are added to the paper along with wood pulp so that it can get a better finishing. Still, each excessive percentage of heavy metal harms the atmosphere in several different negative aspects. They are further categorized into two different types, which are essential and non-essential. The latter should be completely avoided to making wrapping paper.
Plastic sheets used as wrapping paper are made on an industrial level. This process includes several key steps. At first, the polymer is melted at a specific temperature. After this, the molten polymers are condensed and compacted to produce thin, malleable sheets of the same material.
Sometimes, colors and dyes are also used to make wrapping paper look pleasant. But these sheets also become a major cause of different kinds of pollution. Being a non-biodegradable substance, plastic keeps rotting in the environment for several centuries.
This leads to the transference of plastic material into different water bodies and soil. Due to leaching in rivers and water bodies, marine organisms suffer from many dangerous outcomes too.
Plastic wrapping paper is a vital source of preserving food materials as it increases the shelf life. Not only this, but it is one of the most convenient methods of packing food with minimal resources without compromising its quality. However, we must try to eradicate such usage by switching them with brown papers, which are equally convenient to use.
4. Recycled paper
Recycled paper refers to the regular sheets of wrapping paper which are glossy. Recycled paper is always made without miscellaneous stuff like plastic and heavy metals. Also, the inks used in the recycled paper are always environmentally friendly.
It is made up of natural plant pigments. The most eco-friendly ones are soy-based inks which are made from soya beans. Flowers like roses and sunflowers also aid in providing natural pigments or inks for wrapping papers. These are non-volatile and cause no damage to the atmosphere.
Recycled papers are unbleached, and they can be recycled up to many times. This promotes recycling and saves the environment by depleting pollution and landfill waste. This paper is the most efficient biodegradable paper because it is most likely to be made from wood pulp with just some minor to no chemical usage.
It also readily breaks down and starts to decompose within just some days. The decomposition process involves three primary sources: heat, oxygen, and water. Moisture is also vital to decompose the material.
5. Ribbons, tapes, and glues
The wrapping paper typically consists of different colored ribbons, tapes, glues, and glitters. The papers which contain these substances remain non-biodegradable, and they must not be put to recycle with other papers.
This is so because the dyes and inks used in making these miscellaneous items can be toxic and hazardous to the environment. They may contain volatile organic compounds or non-soy-based inks. If inks and dyes are not obtained from flowers or some natural resources, they will surely harm the recycling process.
Similarly, plastic tapes are non-biodegradable, so they keep rotting in the environment for several years before decomposing. Papers containing glues can be equally toxic as they consist of some poisonous chemicals.
Instead of putting ribbons and tapes to recycle, you must store them for usage again because these items stop the process of decomposition. Therefore, glues, ribbons, glitters, dust-based dyes, and tapes should be prevented from carrying out the process of recycling.
Some hazardous impacts on the environment
• Respiratory irritancy
During and after the formation of the wrapping papers, their harmful compounds start to act as volatile. Due to this volatile nature, toxic gaseous emulsions of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide result in the process of lung problems.
This blocks the branchial chambers, thereby resulting in the story’s irritation. Prolonged contact with these gases or dusty elements can cause asthma in children with a weak immune system. Suppose there’s a dusty day, and you’re supposed to keep all the doors and windows of your household closed so that dust doesn’t enter your house.
If even a little amount of dust manages to slide into the room, you instantly start to feel intense suffocation and severe irritation in the eyes. Now, imagine the condition of a worker who constantly has to work under such conditions for his bread and butter.
Volatile organic compounds easily find a way to reach the worker’s and consumers’ throats from where the problem of asthma and lungs start to occur. Sometimes, they also result in causing allergies and itching in the eyes, nose, throat, and skin.
It is difficult for every individual to survive in such unhealthy conditions for longer durations. The recycled paper should be used more often to get rid of this.
• Landfill waste
According to a report, wrapping paper serves as an elegant business with roughly over $7 billion in the US. Out of this, more than half of this paper is not recycled. It is thrown away by the consumer.
After being thrown away, it keeps lying on the land unless it gets decomposed. The rate of decomposition for every paper varies from others. Brown paper takes some days to break down, but on the other hand, plastic wrapping paper takes several centuries and years to decompose.
For that considerable amount of time, this waste gets accumulated on the land and becomes the foremost cause of land pollution. As per certain reports of 2018, the average landfill waste produced in the USA was more than 145 million tonnes.
Wrapping papers are responsible for this pollution on an enormous level. These landfill piles release extremes of gaseous emotions and become a store for foul smells and diseases. The diseases which start to occur from this dumped waste are fatal.
Many of them are spread in the air from where they become airborne diseases. Plastic, heavily waxed sheets, and chemically made papers are the biggest reasons for causing such land pollution extensively. For the same reasons, they should be avoided as much as possible.
• Effect on organisms
Organisms like cattle on the land and marine life on water frequently eat harmful plastic wrapping sheets. This is because they do not tend to distinguish between the sheets and food. To feed their appetite, they start to eat plastic sheets.
Turtles living in water confuse them with jellyfish. This plastic remains in their stomach for long durations because plastic cannot break down. Due to this, their gastrointestinal pathways get blocked, and the organisms lose their appetite.
Eventually, they stop getting any sort of nourishment, due to which they start to experience a lack of energy. This deficiency of energy leads to the starvation of the organisms. And at the end, they die. They also suffer from diseases like cancer for a considerable time before dying.
Therefore, pollution caused by plastic has adverse effects on organisms. There is always a fear of animal extinction around the globe. It will never stop if this problem is not solved enthusiastically.
The cell systems of organisms also get disturbed or mutated, and the fertility rate of many animals gets decreases too. This leads to a disastrous decline in food chains, thereby disturbing the balance of the environment for other organisms.
Consequently, all wrapping papers are not biodegradable, and their nature of decomposition entirely depends upon the material from which they are made up of.
But to preserve the environment and to support green living among people, we must try to use only recycled led paper or the one that can get decomposed in the environment on its own.