You might think you’re being polite by buying your cousin’s new boyfriend’s mum a Christmas present this year, but you could be contributing to the millions of unwanted gifts going to waste.
Animal charity WWF says these presents are going to waste because people feel pressured into giving them for fear of looking cheap or having bad manners.
More than a third (39 per cent) of people who celebrate Christmas buy more gifts than they would like, according to the poll of more than 1,500 people. This means the UK public could receive up to 70 million unwanted gifts this year – an average of one to two per person, WWF said.
“The festive season is for spending time with friends and family and we shouldn’t feel pressured into buying more than we need,” Ben Fogle, broadcaster and WWF ambassador said.
Guilt is also among the top reasons shoppers make unnecessary purchases. Many of these could end up landfill, after being chucked in the bin alongside an estimated 100 million black bin liners full of rubbish from the Christmas season.
The WWF poll indicates a change in people’s attitudes towards recycling, with 93 per cent saying they plan to recycle as much waste as possible. A quarter of those surveyed confessed to throwing all non-perishable Christmas waste in the bin in the past because they didn’t know what could be recycled.
But there is also widespread misunderstanding about what ends up in landfill or incineration. The majority of those surveyed (84 per cent) wrongly believe wrapping paper can be recycled, 62 per cent believe food-stained paper plates can be, and the same percentage think Christmas ribbons and bows can be recycled, too.
One in ten said they would reduce their meat consumption across the festive season, while 23% said they would buy fewer presents this year compared to last year.
“People in the UK are increasingly embracing the idea that Christmas can be festive and fun without costing the earth,” said Tanya Steele, chief executive at WWF UK. “We can all make simple changes by cutting back on food waste, reducing the amount of meat we eat, using recyclable wrapping paper and giving time to friends and family rather than things.”
Top tips from WWF for a sustainable Christmas:
Use brown paper or recycled paper instead of regular wrapping paper, as regular wrapping paper often has a shiny layer which means it can’t be recycled
Remove all ribbons, bows and Sellotape from wrapping paper before putting it into your recycling bin, as these can’t be recycled
Plan your shopping list ahead of time to make sure you don’t buy more food than you need for Christmas
Try making simple changes with festive meals and eat less meat, fish and dairy – and look to swap in fresh fruit and vegetables
Christmas leftovers can turn into some great alternative dishes – leftover turkey and potatoes can be used in pies, bones can be turned into stock, vegetables can be used in a stir-fry
Try replacing single-use plastic wraps like cling film with reusable beeswax wraps to help protect food
Consider giving experience presents such as afternoon tea, a visit to a local lake or forest, instead of physical gifts
Go for a real Christmas tree instead of an artificial one – check it’s from a sustainable source (FSC certified), that you can recycle through your local council afterwards, or why not rent a potted tree and return it after the festivities are over?