‘Ridiculous’: Australians urged to change Christmas habits as $921 million in gifts wasted

An alarming amount of Christmas gifts are ending up in landfill, according to new research.

An alarming amount of Christmas gifts are ending up in landfill, according to new research. Photo: AAP

Australians are being urged to forget tacky and cheap Christmas gifts and decorations as new data reveals more than $900 million worth of goods is set to be wasted this holidays.

Figures published by the Australia Institute on Thursday estimated $921 million in Christmas presents will go to waste this year, based on a survey of 1379 people.

About 30 per cent of respondents said they expect to receive a gift they won’t use or wear, with almost half (48 per cent) saying they would rather people not buy them gifts.

Nina Gbor, director of the waste and circular economy program at the Australia Institute said Australians should try asking their loved ones what they want for Christmas before going shopping, or even opt to give people experiences rather than goods.

“We’re giving almost a billion dollars worth of stuff people don’t need, which is ridiculous,” Gbor said.

“We need to shift the culture of gift giving around Christmas.”

‘Cancelling’ Christmas waste

The findings come amid growing awareness about the role wasted goods and food play in worsening environmental challenges, including climate change and plastic pollution levels.

Many popular holiday traditions, such as Christmas crackers or decorating houses with festive ornaments, involve a substantial amount of waste due to the prevalence of plastic goods.

Gbor explained that many gifts and decorations aren’t made to last and end up going to landfill, suggesting home-made alternatives or swapping pre-loved items is a better idea.

“Anything that’s meant to be used for a short period of time should be cancelled,” Gbor said.

“Let’s be honest, Christmas crackers are tacky.”

And while asking friends and family what they’d like to be gifted takes away from the element of surprise at Christmas, it does help you target purchases to things people actually need or want.

“It’s time we try to put genuine meaning behind Christmas and make it about experiences,” she said, adding that charitable donations on behalf of loved ones is also a good option.

Gift cards for less unwanted waste

When buying gifts for others the Australia Institute survey suggests less than half of people think about how their gifts will eventually be disposed of, despite 59 per cent agreeing it’s better for the economy when people buy fewer things that go unused.

Even wrapping paper can end up causing excess waste, with Gbor saying people should consider reusable bags or wrappings like scarves instead of buying new paper.

Old newspapers can also be used and decorated to add a personal festive touch, she said.

But what if you’re gifting to someone you don’t know very well? In these cases gift cards can be a solid option because they give the recipient an opportunity to pick what they want.

A recent survey from CouriersPlease found 65 per cent of Australians just want to be given cash at Christmas, with that figure rising to three-quarters among younger demographics.

That was closely followed by supermarket, department store or shopping centre gift cards, which was the preferred option by 61 per cent of the 1005 respondents.

Gbor explained that gift cards can be good because they’re also re-giftable, meaning that if the recipient doesn’t want to spend money on the card they can easily give it to someone else.

“Far less is wasted,” she said. “If they don’t want to use it for that brand or company they can re-gift it to someone who would use it.”

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