What do you do with your unwanted Christmas presents?

Updated: Jan 9, 2019

So, if all has gone to plan, the decorations have finally been stuffed back in their boxes and hidden in the loft until next December; your tummy has been stuffed into your jeans thanks to all the #Christmas excess and the half dozen mince pies/slices of yule log/helpings of Christmas pudding or cake (Universe cake in our house, I will explain another time!) you've scoffed daily; and all the #packaging from the turkey/nut roast has been stuffed into the bin or the recycling bin.

But how much did get recycled? Did you know if you scrunch up your wrapping paper and it returns back to it's original shape it's actually mixed with foil or plastic and needs to be sent to landfill as to not contaminate the paper recycling as if too much paper is contaminated, the whole lot will be sent to landfill. It makes me shudder to think how much we have been wrongfully #recycling all these years.

According to this insightful article from GWP, we use 227,000 km of wrapping paper to wrap our presents every year. And every year we fell approximately 33 million trees to make a billion Christmas cards. And with all that plastic packaging on the toys and gifts and food, Brits make an extra 3,000,000 tonnes of #landfill every Christmas.

But for me, the most shocking statistic of all, was that, "approximately £42 million of unwanted Christmas presents are thrown out in landfill each year." This is so shocking. Why are we giving things to each other so extravagantly and unnecessarily? If people don't want stuff and don't need stuff then we are we feeling obligated to buy it? Martin Lewis made a fantastic video explaining that we shouldn't feel obligated to buy things for people just because we feel like we 'ought to' or we 'supposed to' or 'we should'. People put themselves into debt to buy stuff that is usually made out of Earth-mined materials in pollution causing factories or unfair sweatshops and transported half away round the world and swamped in unbiodegradable or compostable plastic packaging all in the name of showing we care just so to give an unwanted and unnecessary gift. £42 million worth! (Although I am assuming the figure is much higher as this is only the items that are thrown away.)

But who is throwing these things away? Let's face it, we all got something this Christmas that we didn't really want or need. My son got two science kits exactly the same and enough chocolate to send a diabetic into a coma. One year I got seven scarves. Seven! Firstly I only have one neck, and secondly I don't even wear scarves! Not flouncy, pretty ones anyway. But I didn't chuck them in the bin, I wouldn't dream of it. They ended up for sale in my old charity shop.

Ideas for finding new homes for your unwanted presents:

  1. Exchange it. If it comes with a gift receipt this is really easy to do, but the chances are that you will still be able to go back to the shop from whence it came and exchange it for something that you would actually appreciate and make much better use of.

  2. Re-gift it. It's as easy as re-wrapping that sucker, with stylish, recyclable brown paper of course, and giving it to the next Uncle/neighbour/school Mum that turns up unexpectedly with a gift (although you REALLY don't have to give just because you received, let's break this cycle!)

  3. Swap it. Ask your friends or siblings if they have any unwanted presents to swap. Do it discretely of course, you really don't want to advertise your giving away that handmade ugly sweater Aunt Mildred knitted just for you in front of Aunt Mildred. Or you could hold a swishing party where you can take unwanted clothes (or you could extend it to books and gifts) with your friends. I picked up a ridiculously amazing handmade stripy rainbow Doctor Who scarf last time I went to one.

  4. Donate it to your local charity shop. Charities shop are everywhere are always in need of things to sell to boost income for their good causes.

  5. Give it to your local school for a prize for their next fair.

  6. Take it to a local homeless shelter or care home. Yes, street homeless people do need blankets and socks, but brand new unwanted gifts can make Christmas for a care leaver or pensioner or domestic violence victim a bit more special. And even though it's January, these things can be appreciated all year round.

  7. Sell it. After the expense of Christmas, making a few extra quid can be really helpful. Even if you don't know how to use eBay or can't be bothered to parcel it up you can always advertise it on Facebook marketplace.

  8. Give it away for free. You could advertise it on Facebook on your local Free/Swap/Sale group or on Freecycle or Freegle and someone will come collect. You'd be surprised about the generosity of people, and the sharing and community spirit.

  9. Be honest? The jury's out on this one, but if you don't want that person to get you another present you don't like next year, and the year after, and the year after that... then you could always (very tactfully and politely) let them know that you might prefer something else. Be warned though, feelings may get hurt and you might only get a lump of coal next year!

Whatever you do with your unwanted presents, don't bin them. And let's educate our friends with better suggestions too. And best of all, next year why don't you give experience gifts or virtual charity gifts from PRESENCE not presents, or, best of all, *cheese alert*, simply give your friends and family your time, your love and your support. That's what Christmas is really about: spending time with each other, making memories, and letting each other know we care.

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© PRESENCE not presents 2018