Guilty as charged. I once bought Sudoku toilet paper as a joke Christmas present. It was for the man who wanted for nothing. It did elicit a laugh, and I figured the toilet paper would actually get used when the joke was forgotten.
But this is an article why you shouldn’t buy presents that aren’t going to be used or loved.
In the next few weeks, thousands of unwanted gifts will appear for sale on Trade Me.
Even worse, plenty more will end up in wheelie bins for a quick trip to landfill. Aucklanders put out 6 per cent more kerbside waste on average in December compared to November, Auckland Council says.
Come January, when op shops reopen, they’re going to be inundated with this junk. I volunteer once a month at my local op shop and see some of the stupid and/or unwanted presents people waste money on.
Sometimes quite usable presents are donated because they weren’t chosen with the recipient’s desires in mind. These can be resold easily at op shops at least.
Maria Baird, retail services manager at Harbour Hospice, says some of those gifts bought for the person who has everything, can be resold and raise money for good causes. “Beautiful, perfumed candles and beauty products that are then graciously gifted our way,” says Baird. “The latest read, coffee table books, beautiful cookbooks. [These are] all things we love to receive and sell on.”
I read a pile of articles and surveys of the least wanted gifts. Candles appeared in many of those lists, which surprised me, because I love good ones.
On the subject of candles and unopened beauty products. Don’t delay in donating them. They go off after a while and start to smell bad. Op shops don’t need nasty-smelling donations.
Sue Wallis, general manager at Waiuku Zero Waste gets to see the hangovers of Christmas past. The massive recycle centre is inundated with discarded items each New Year.
“We get lots of the bigger items which have been upgraded at Christmas like BBQs and the like,” says Wallis. “Also endless decorations and Christmas trees.”
Like all the recycle/resource recovery centres in New Zealand, Waiuku Zero Waste, has a lot of silly gifts such as toilet golf dumped on it.
Unwanted corporate gifts are also common. Companies are becoming more aware of sustainability, thank goodness, and aren’t giving staff and clients too many gimmicky corporate gifts. But Wallis still sees a lot of company-branded glasses, cups, shirts and so on.
Certain expensive gifts are often unwanted. A keyboard warrior argued black and blue on a forum I follow that all air fryers are going to end up in op shops. Others argued they used their airfryers all the time.
“Foot spas are the one I would put in place of the air fryer,” says Wallis. “Though they have usually sat around for a while before being given up on.” Even when they hit the op shop in good condition they don’t get bought much either, says Wallis.
The kitchen appliance most given up on is the bread maker, she says. That surprised me because my Panasonic bread maker has been used regularly for the past 23-plus years. But each to their own.
If you’re buying a present because you should, consider buying an experience. That’s better than an item that either ends up in landfill, or replaces something else that suffers the same fate. Beware that even “eco” gifts aren’t “eco” if they’re not used.
If you don’t want to buy experiences, consider DIY gifts such as baking, or a gift card for something such as a special homemade dinner, or night of babysitting. Consider buying consumables like nice soaps, or yummy treats, which will at least get used. If all else fails, buy a voucher for a mall. It lacks originality. But it’s a rare person who can’t find something they want at the mall.
It’s not just gifts that we waste at Christmas. Give the planet a gift by only buying food that will be eaten, avoiding tinsel, and plastic decorations, and perhaps buying a living tree that you can bring out year after year. When it comes to gift wrapping, ordinary paper or even newspaper and string actually looks quite good - although don’t do what I did by accident and wrap presents in the death notices.