A couple exchanging a gift wrapped up in beautiful brown paper with a wooden ornament attached

Should we regift unwanted Christmas presents?

Every Christmas we end up with presents we have no use for. A lot end up in landfill. Should we regift unwanted presents to cull waste? It's a bit of a touchy subject. Our social media followers weigh in – who do you think is correct?
  Published:  11 Dec 2023    |      3 minute read

It’s no secret that the holiday season produces a massive amount of waste. In fact, waste goes up by 30% compared with the rest of the year. Shockingly, around £42 million worth of unwanted Christmas presents are sent to UK landfill every year. Instead of binning unwanted things, does it make more sense to give them away? Or is this too much of a social faux pas?

Our social media followers weigh in. Lily, 39, Cardiff thinks passing along unwanted gifts is a smart move, while Oliver, 42, Oxford thinks it’s ungrateful. Who’s correct?

Oliver: regifting is ungrateful and thoughtless

If someone cares about you enough to think about you and gift you something, cherish the expression of love. Don’t give it away.

I’ve never understood why people decide to give away presents people have taken the time to gift them. When someone gives you something on a special occasion, it’s an expression of their warm feelings towards you: they want to make you feel thought of and happy.

Granted, not everyone’s the best when it comes to picking out gifts, but that shouldn’t mean you dismiss their intention behind giving you the gift. In fact, it can be a good opportunity to try something you wouldn’t ordinarily.

Last Christmas I was gifted a few family board games. When I used to play board games, the rules were simple and the games were swift. However, these new board games came with reams of instructions and the games lasted hours. I didn’t think our family would enjoy it. But in the spirit of appreciation, we decided to give one of the games a try. We ended up having a wonderful time and it reminded me that sometimes, even if we think something isn’t quite right for us, we can still appreciate the gesture, and we might even find some surprising joy from it!

We’re in a cost-of-living crisis and I think we should simply be grateful that someone has taken the time to think of us, and gift us something. We should appreciate the thought and intention in difficult times.

If someone cares about you enough to think about you and gift you something, cherish the expression of love. Don’t give it away.

Lily: in defence of regifting

I wonder just how many items are hidden away in homes that could be happily appreciated elsewhere!

What’s the point of keeping something you have no intention of ever using? Especially when someone you know can actually make use of the gift.

Every year I manage to get the same old bits from well-meaning loved ones. It doesn’t help that every year brands curate almost identical offerings. There’s only so many Christmas body care sets someone can need! So, what do I do? I give them to my local women’s shelter. It’s often short on supplies and, most importantly, wants the items.

I often think regifting gets a bad rap because it’s seen as inconsiderate. But I think it’s actually thoughtful and practical. When I moved into my new flat this year, I was gifted 8 garish yellow cushions. I already had cushions and honestly, they weren’t to my taste at all… I kept them stuffed in a wardrobe for a while. When my friend moved into her new home, she was starting from fresh and had a wish list of items. I noticed she’d written “bright cushions” on her list, so my gifted cushions got a new lease of life in a home that would appreciate them. I managed to save myself a bit of money as I didn’t have to buy a gift, and made someone happy.

I wonder just how many items are hidden away in homes that could be happily appreciated elsewhere! I see regifting as a form of recycling: reducing waste and unnecessary clutter.

What do other Friends of the Earth followers think about regifting?

We polled our Instagram audience and a massive 93% of people said they would regift, while 7% said they wouldn’t.

“I just throw rubbish gifts in the bin. It feels tight to regift.” – Peter

“Obviously there’s a risk that you’ll hurt the feelings of the original gifter, but keeping something you have no intention of ever using seems a bit pointless too, so regifting or a charity shop is the way forward.” – Jason

“I regularly regift stuff. I have a box of things ready for regifting when the right occasion occurs. It's mainly stuff I already have enough of (reusable coffee cups, nice notebooks, tea towels etc).” – Rani

“I never know what to do with presents I really dislike as I wouldn't want to give them to anyone.” – Harry

Friends of the Earth weigh in…

While we understand regifting can be a touchy subject with some divisive views, we’re of the opinion that thoughtful regifting or donating is the wisest decision. It’s better than unwanted products going to landfill. We think basic regifting etiquette should be practised to avoid hurt feelings, like not regifting within the same circle of friends and appreciating the thought behind the gift you’re given before letting it go.

A circular economy is where products are designed with their whole life cycle in mind, re-using, sharing and repairing to extend their useful life, and then when their life is deemed over, re-manufacturing to create new products from old.

It’s an all-encompassing approach to life and business, where everything has value, and nothing is wasted.

It's no secret that we live in a society fuelled by overconsumption, so regifting can be part of a circular economy. Instead of throwing out or not using an unwanted gift, we can instead think about where the gift would be valued.

Love lifestyle tips and news about nature?