‘Oh, you shouldn’t have’ – Christmas gift waste expected to top $900 million

Christmas Wrapping paper


More than six million Australians expect to receive presents they will not use or wear and the bulk of these unwanted gifts are destined for landfill, new Australia Institute research shows.

Nearly a third of the 1,379 people surveyed expect to receive Christmas presents that will go to waste, worth an estimated $921 million.

Key findings:

  • Nine in 10 (89%) of people receive presents while 30%, or about 6.1 million adults, expected to receive gifts they will not use or wear
  • This Christmas waste represents a value of $921 million (see method in Calculations section of brief)
  • Nearly half (48%) would rather people not buy them gifts at Christmas
  • Most people (78%) like buying Christmas gifts for others
  • When buying for others, 46% say they do not think about how those gifts will be eventually disposed of
  • Three in five (59%) agree it is better for the economy when people buy fewer things that go unused
  • Three in five (61%) had a Christmas tree last year and, of those, 85% intended to reuse it.

“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 program 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.

“But nearly half of us would rather not receive presents at all, suggesting it’s time to shake up our spending habits this Christmas.

“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.

“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.”

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