Christmas is over and the New Year has begun. UK adults receive approximately £2.6 billion worth of unwanted Christmas presents each year - presents which are often left gathering dust and cluttering our homes, or are thrown out with the rest of the Christmas waste.

We live in an increasingly wasteful, throwaway society with only 1% of the materials that have gone into producing the stuff we buy still in use six months after sale. In fact, if everyone consumed like we do here in the U.K. we would need 3 Earths to sustain us. This way of living is not sustainable, not good for our mental health, and becomes especially apparent at times like Christmas.

Buying less, buying better, not buying at all... there are many solutions to tackling our throwaway society. But what can we do when the stuff has already been bought? 

What to do with unwanted Christmas presents

It might feel a little awkward to return or donate something bought especially for you, but that's better than letting it go to waste. Many unwanted Christmas presents can be returned to where they were bought (providing you have a receipt or proof of postage) but if you're looking to do more with your unwanted gifts, then we have some advice below.

  • Ill-fitting clothing could be made to fit. Try taking items to your local tailor to be altered.
  • Cosmetics and toiletries can be donated to domestic abuse refugees. Give and Makeup is a non-profit initiative whose sole purpose is to get everyday essentials into the hands of women and children who need them the most. Or you can donate unopened items directly to your local Womens Aid or Refuge refuge.
  • Toys, books and games can also be donated to Women's Aid or Refuge refuges, for the children escaping domestic violence. Alternatively, you could ask a local playgroup or nursery if they have use for the items.
  • Food hampers can be donated to your local Trussell Trust or food bank.
  • Clean, unused, underwear such as socks, knickers, boxers or bras can be donated to charities and groups such as Yarl's Wood Befrienders who provide emotional and practical support for the people detained in Yarl’s Wood.

If you do donate or return a gift, be sure to show your appreciation to whoever gave it to you. Say thank you, tell them how much you appreciated the thought, but be honest and tell them the gift wasn't for you. Let them know what you've done with the gift - especially if you've done something great with it!