Unused Christmas Gifts Are Set to Cost a Staggering Amount This Year

A woman wrapping a christmas present that may go to waste in australia

It’s the season of giving but, as a new study has revealed, not everyone is going to want the gifts that they receive. In fact, Christmas gift waste is forecast to top $900 million in Australia this year.

More than six million Aussies are expected to receive presents that they won’t use or wear, with the vast majority of them ending up in landfill. New research from the Australia Institute reveals the total cost of this misaligned gifting will reach $921 million.

In a survey of 1,379 people, 89% said that they will receive presents under the tree this year. Of those, 30% think that they’re not going to use the new items they’re gifted.

Half of the people surveyed said that they would rather people not buy them gifts entirely – although we all know someone like this and it’s seldom a genuine wish.

In the spirit of giving and the Christmas hype, 78% of people said that they enjoy buying Chrismas gifts for others. However, 46% said that they don’t consider how those gifts will eventually be disposed of.

“Most of us love buying gifts for our loved ones, but 275,000 tonnes of them – or $921 million worth – are set to go unused or unworn,” said Nina Gbor, Director of the Waste & Circular Economy programme at the Australia Institute.

“The bulk of these unused presents are destined for landfill, wasting money, and adding to plastic pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and the climate crisis”.

It’s information we’re all somewhat aware of, although appear not to heed when shopping. 59% of people surveyed said that it’s better for the economy when people buy fewer things and only what they truly need.

It’s no secret that Christmas leaves a major mark on the environment and on the economy. According to Finder, this year, Aussies are expected to spend a total of $30 billion all up to celebrate the birth of a Lord and Saviour most of us don’t recall believe in. That’s a 10% increase on last year’s estimated spend, averaging out at $1479 per person when alcohol, presents, food, eating out, and travel are factored in.

A different survey however has stated that Australia will splash a total of $66.8 billion on festive items between November and Christmas. The Australian Retailers Association has found that figure is just 0.1% more than last year, despite major cost of living rises. They assert that inflation and high-interest rates will curb spending this year as Aussies continue to do it tough in difficult economic circumstances.

Christmas, waste, and spending is really just a microcosm of a larger issue. Australia has a bad relationship with waste and, at Christmas, nearly 5 million tonnes of food goes straight into the bin. It’s on par for a country that, in 2021, ranked 8th worst out of the OECD nations for waste generated per person, according to the Global Waste Index.

Every year there are campaigns to make Australia more conscious of the things it buys and throws away. Gbor has said that being more conscientious of what our loved ones will really want and need will have a broad impact.

“Gifting experiences, homemade presents, gift cards or donations in someone’s name are great alternatives to presents that would otherwise gather dust or go to waste,” she said.

“Buying fewer presents and focusing on quality over quantity does not just help save the environment, it also spares our wallets during the cost of living crisis.”

Related: Have Yourself an Eco-Friendly Christmas, Let Your Gifts Be Planet-Wise

Related: The Burning of the Gävle Goat Is the Best Christmas Story You’ve Never Heard

Read more stories from The Latch and subscribe to our email newsletter.