It may seem environmentally responsible to buy things marked "recyclable."

But in the case of holiday wrapping paper, it will make absolutely no difference.

According to Winneshiek County Recycling Department Manager Terry Buenzow, there are so many different types of wrapping paper that are not recyclable, paper mills simply won't take any.

"There is no way they can sort it out piece by piece when they are pulping thousands of tons per day," said Buenzow.

"We have no choice but to pull it out of the paper stream at the recycling center and landfill it. This is labor intensive and costly," said Buenzow, adding it's a necessary step in order for Winneshiek County to maintain its reputation for high-quality product.



The problem

Buenzow said while all wrapping paper - both recyclable and non-recyclable - looks alike, much of it is coated with plastic or wax, which is not a paper fiber.

"When you add those things, the paper is rendered irrevocably unrecyclable," said Buenzow.



What to do

Buenzow suggested substituting gift bags, which can be used again and again. Many of them are also recyclable.

"They're a whole lot easier to deal with," said Buenzow.

He also recommended newspaper, colored tissue paper or old road maps.

"Be creative," he added.