The holiday season is upon us! With it comes family and friends, comfort food, festive parties, and gift exchanges. But after completing your holiday shopping, wrapping all of your gifts, and opening each gift, have you ever wondered what happens to all of the wrapping paper? Usually we are quick to throw it into the trash can, where it ends up in the landfill. But what if you could compost it?
Curious, Nature's Little Recyclers set out to discover if our worms would, in fact, eat wrapping paper. Here's what we discovered.
In our experiment, we used 20-gallon bins and maintained the temperature at an average of 68 degrees F with a higher humidity environment.
Facts about wrapping paper: Wrapping paper sales are totaled $9.6 billion dollars in 2010. We produce 4 million pounds of it, which is 333 million square feet of wrapping -- enough to cover 5,787 NFL football fields! (Sobering Fact: Wrapping Paper Could Cover Over 5000 Football Fields)
Wrapping Paper: Episode 1
For the first episode, we took two pieces of wrapper paper and tore them up before mixing them into the bins.
Wrapping Paper: Episode 2
For the next episode, we come back three months later to see if there had been any progress. When we opened the bins, we saw that our worms had not eaten the wrapping paper.
In our test, the worms didn't eat the wrapping paper. The wrapping paper had very little compost activity, and the only degradation came from elemental exposure. We hypothesize that it is a reaction to the heavy metals in wrapping paper.
If you would like to be more eco-friendly this holiday season, we suggest using the follow wrapping paper alternatives (which are all cheap alternatives you already have or can find at your local dollar store):
- Brown paper bags from the grocery store (bonus: you can custom decorate these yourself by using markers)
- Tissue paper
- Paper gift bags
Do This Experiment at Home
Even though Nature's Little Recyclers performed this experiment in larger bins, you can do this experiment yourself at home. This experiment is great for adults and kids alike looking to see and understand more about the compost process (and how their wrapping paper gets eaten!).
- To test this at home, take a small piece of wrapping paper, and tear it up in small pieces. Soak these pieces in water for about 2 hours.
- Take a second piece, measured to the top of your NLR Mini-Bin, and soak it for two hours.
- Lightly mix the shredded pieces from step 1 into the existing material in the Mini-Bin. Take the second piece from step 2 and place it on top, and then put the burlap back on top.
- After two weeks, push the compost away gently and take a look. Does it have worms around it? Has it changed its texture? How much did different parts break down (bread, veggies, meat)? How long does it take to break down?
- Share your observations with us on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) or in the comments below!
Don't have a Mini-Bin but would like to compost at home? Or maybe you're looking for a friendly and low-maintenance pet for the kids? Purchase a Mini-Bin today for $24.99. Price includes kit, starter food, and worms.