How to get rid of unwanted Christmas gifts in a sustainable way

Written by Amy Beecham

Dreading being gifted a dreary dress, itchy scarf or outdated perfume this year? Here are some suggestions for making the most of unwanted gifts.

Remember that viral video a few years back of a child receiving a wrapped up avocado for Christmas? “It’s an avocado…thanks,” he exclaims, his voice barely hiding the deflation, before swiftly passing the gift to the side and opening the next one.

It’s an experience we’ve all had to navigate: unwrapping a well-meaning but ultimately misguided gift on Christmas morning, trying our best to feign appreciation.

Indeed, research from Finder estimates that around 21 million of us receive at least one unwanted gift each Christmas, but are we meant to do with them afterwards?

“I’m sure it’s happened to many of us – to receive a gift that’s not quite for us or doesn’t quite fit,”Natacha Blanchard, consumer lead at Vinted, tells Stylist.

Finder’s survey suggested that 23% of people politely keep the presents they dislike. But if you don’t want to add unnecessary clutter or are short on space, you could follow in the footsteps of the 22% who opted to regift it to someone better suited.

Regifting an item is quite the taboo among traditionalists, but Blanchard argues that this should be the way. 

“Let’s debunk reselling and regifting,” she says. Instead of hiding it at the back of your wardrobe, in the age of eco-conscious consumption, people who receive a gift they don’t need, don’t like, or which doesn’t fit, are being encouraged to regift it to someone else who would find it special.

“Selling or buying on platforms like Vinted is the perfect way to do this, giving your unwanted gifts a new home, while giving more responsibly. And if you sell your unwanted gifts, maybe you can even think of donating part of the profits to a charity.”

How to regift, reuse or recycle unwanted Christmas presents

While typically your wrongly sized tops and hideous jumpers would have gone straight to the charity shop on 2 January, it’s important to give a bit of thought towards exactly what you’re donating.

Following pandemic-induced clear outs earlier this year, charity shops were forced to turn away donations due to over-filling. “Be thoughtful – is this stuff you’d be prepared to buy yourself?” Robin Osterley, chief executive of the Charity Retail Association,  told the BBC.

What’s more, while secondhand shopping is certainly more sustainable than fast fashion, overloading charity shops with donations isn’t always as eco-friendly as we might think.

WRAP, the Waste and Resources Action Programme, estimates that around two thirds of reused clothes from the UK end up overseas, while Andrew Brooks, author of Clothing Poverty, found that as much of 90% of our charity donations are exported abroad.

So what other options do you have to make the most of an unfortunate gifting situation?

Sell it

Apps like Depop, Vinted and Shpock, alongside the likes of eBay and Facebook marketplace make it easier than ever to sell a multitude of items, from clothes that aren’t quite right to books that you already have in your collection.

“Write a good description for each thing you are selling,” advises Lizzie Grant, founder of Declutter on Demand and Vinted’s resident expert. “Include as much detail as you can, particularly accurate measurements. For example, if you’re selling men’s clothes, sellers will definitely want you to include waist and leg measurements for trousers and collar size for work shirts. This will save you time in the long run not having to answer these questions from buyers and means you are more likely to make the sale.”

“Do ensure that the belongings you are selling are in good condition,” she reminds. “Clean and iron them before sending to your buyer. If there are any stains or tears to the item, include a photo of that area and flag this in the description. On Vinted, it’s also really easy to select an option for the condition of your clothes when uploading each piece. Your preloved belongings are more likely to sell if the buyer knows exactly what they’re getting.”

Recycle it

As points out, if you’re unable to exchange your present and don’t fancy selling it, companies including H&M, John Lewis & Partners, M&S and Nike have schemes in which they will buy back your unwanted clothes and trainers, or offer you a voucher. For unwanted games, CDs and electronics, you can also use websites such as MusicMagpie to post your items for an agreed amount of cash, or trade in person in stores like CEX.

Reuse it however you can

If you’re really struggling to find use for an item, try thinking outside the box about different ways you can make the most of it. Can the pages from a book make cute wrapping paper? Can an item of clothing be altered or cut up to take on a new form? For example, I now use a too-small T-shirt that I bought my boyfriend and couldn’t return as a hair wrap when I’m out of the shower. I’ve also recently hand dyed a gifted jumper I liked the style of but hated the colour of to ensure I get more wear out of it. While this in itself may seem wasteful, anything is better than binning it and it ultimately ending up in landfill.

Images: Getty

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