Aussies wasted over $400 million in unwanted Christmas gifts last year

author-avatar By on November 18,2019
Aussies wasted over $400 million in unwanted Christmas gifts last year

Photo by Eugene Zhyvchik on Unsplash

Australians are ready to give Santa the sack this year, with new research revealing over $400 million worth of unwanted presents were gifted last year and 10 million unwanted gifts were received – coming at a huge cost to our finances and the environment.

Christmas is the most joyous wasteful time of year, according to a study commissioned by ING who are launching a sustainable gift-giving campaign, the Good Gift Creator, to help Aussies buy more sustainably over the silly season.

More than half (57%) of those surveyed said they will be giving sustainable gifts this year, with nearly a quarter (23%) preferring a socially-conscious or eco-friendly present under the tree.

The research found that one-third of Australians believe that Christmas is the most wasteful time of year, with 41% agreeing ill-considered gifts were a significant contributor to unwanted presents.

Over a third (36%) said they want to be more mindful of their holiday spending this year, with 22% of respondents admitting they always overspend on presents and 34% planning to take advantage of pre-Christmas sales when buying gifts.

Over a quarter (26%) said they now preferred to tell their friends and family what they want for Christmas to avoid the risk of receiving an unwanted gift ending up in landfill.

The research found holiday gifts are costing up to $5.79 billion every year, with Aussies buying 5.5 gifts on average at a cost of $54.36 each.

Topping the list of the most unwanted gifts were novelty items (51%), candles (40%), pamper products (40%), pyjamas or slippers (35%) and underwear or socks (32%).

Melanie Evans, Head of Retail at ING Bank said it’s possible to spoil your loved ones without breaking the budget or contributing to landfill.

“Every Christmas, the shopping frenzy results in tons of unwanted gifts going into landfill. It’s only natural we want to spoil our loved ones during the festive period, but this year we wanted to show people how the perfect gift can result in less waste, both environmentally and financially,” Ms Evans said.

“The Dreamstarter Good Gift Creator helps Aussies find and share sustainable gift ideas, with something for every member of the family at a range of price points. From Team Timbuktu’s activewear made from recycled plastics to reuseable bamboo straws from The Other Straw, Aussies can select what they really want, so gifts avoid the rubbish bin – and due to their eco or social benefit credentials, they’re gifts that give back.”

The research found one-third (31%) of respondents admit it’s hard to avoid single-use plastics over the festive period, with the biggest drivers of holiday waste including excess gift packaging (65%), wrapping paper (61%), single-use decorations (56%), food packaging (59%) and leftover food (55%).

So what do Aussies want for Christmas? The research found experience or activity gifts top the list (38%) closely followed by clothing (33%). For men, tech gifts were the most popular (37%) while jewellery was high on women’s wish lists (36%).


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Emma Duffy joined Savings.com.au as a Finance Journalist in 2019 after spending a year as the editor of The Real Estate Conversation. She's most passionate about improving the financial literacy of millennials by writing about complex financial topics in a way that's easy for the average Joe (or Jill) to understand.

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