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After the Eggnog: What to Do With Packaging Materials After the Holiday Season

During the holidays, there are few scenes more rewarding than watching loved ones rip through wrapping paper with broad smiles and joyful exuberance. But once the sun has set on another fun family holiday, there's the question of what to do with the mess in the living room.

According to the market research firm eMarketer, American consumers were expected to spend a record $1 trillion on Christmas purchases in 2018, with growth in eCommerce fueling robust holiday gift-giving. Online sales were expected to increase 16.6 percent year over year, compared with a gain of only 4.4 percent for in-store sales. That means that after the last gift under the tree has been opened, the living-room floor is likely to be littered with protective packaging materials used in parcels.

 

Giving Plastics the Gift of New Life

But all the protective wrapping and air-filled plastic pouches needn't go in the landfill. Only hard plastic materials can be placed in curbside recycling bins for processing at local recycling centers, but many supermarkets have collection bins near their entrances for thin polyethylene plastics marked with resin identification code Nos. 2 or 4.

These stretchy plastics include wrap, air-filled pouches and the bags used for groceries, bread, dry cleaning and newspapers, for example. Find a drop-off location near you on Plastic Film Recycling’s website.

During the recycling process, these plastic materials are ground up and repelletized for use in a wide array of recyclable products, including trash bags, car parts and even shoes.

 

From Parcel to Art

There’s really no telling where your recycled packaging materials will end up. Some are even becoming art. The Dutch artist Suzanne Jongmans has been using packaging materials such as foam, inflatable wrap and plastic sheets to recreate garments from the 15th through 17th centuries. The garments include ornate bonnets and high-collared dresses to be worn by models posing for portraits. Jongmans said her artistic photographs are nods to paintings by such celebrated artists as Rembrandt, Holbein the Younger and Rogier van der Weyden.

“The idea of making something out of nothing changes our look on reality,” Jongmans told Colossal, the arts and design website.   

 

“The easiest way to keep inflatable wrap and air-filled plastic pouches out of landfills is to save them for next year or use them to pack up delicate ornaments and decorations."

Deflating After the Holidays

Of course, you don't have to be quite that creative. The easiest way to keep inflatable wrap and air-filled plastic pouches out of landfills is to save them for next year or use them to pack up delicate ornaments and decorations.  

And then there’s the stress-relieving activity that seemingly everyone enjoys – popping inflatable wrap. It may surprise you to learn that there’s actually some science supporting the usage of inflatable wrap to keep calm. Back in the 1990s, Kathleen M. Dillon, a psychology professor at Western New England College, published a study in the journal Psychological Reports examining just this topic.

Dillon’s research showed that undergraduates who got to pop two sheets of inflatable wrap felt simultaneously calmer and more awake than before they had started; they also reported higher levels of calmness and alertness compared to a control group that didn’t participate.  

After braving packed stores and traffic-snarled roadways to buy presents, perhaps you could use a little stress relief. But if not, give the inflatable wrap to the little ones. They just might enjoy it more than the toy it was protecting.