Office grinches: Brits throw away £32 million worth of Secret Santa gifts every Christmas

Brits are throwing away millions of unwanted Secret Santa presents every year. Here’s a look at why and what can be done about it.

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Secret Santa has a big presence in UK workplaces, but not everybody loves the tradition. Even worse, Brits are not even bothering to donate, recycle or regift most of the surprise gifts they get (but hate) at the office.

In fact, new research from online printing specialists instantprint shows that up to 2.5 million Secret Santa gifts exchanged in UK workplaces will end up in the bin this year. This adds up to almost £32.5 million worth of gifts that could have been saved and given better homes.


Office grinches are more common than you think

Brits just aren’t loving the Secret Santa tradition at work. According to instantprint, one in ten want the tradition cancelled and one in eight feel anxious about the gift exchange. One in 12 people confesses to simply throwing away a Secret Santa present they disliked.

The biggest problem? Receiving things that don’t fit, are offensive (28% of those surveyed truly dislike rude and adult-themed gifts) or are too personal. Over 30% say they don’t want socks and underwear as presents. Soft toys, clothing and framed photos of colleagues are also high up on the list of unwanted Secret Santa presents.

Secret Santa gift preferences are clear

Not surprisingly, the research shows chocolates (58% would be happy to get this) and alcohol (48%) top the list. Candles, other food-related gifts and vouchers are also welcome gifts. Even handmade gifts would please 21% of recipients, while 25% would be happy to get scratch cards or lottery tickets.

This isn’t about the price either – the average Secret Santa gift for a colleague costs just £12.50. Instead, it’s about how well that money is spent. 


What to do with all those unwanted gifts

Despite the millions of gifts discarded, almost a third of workers (28%) would donate an unwanted gift. Another 28% would regift when possible.

Laura Mucklow, Head of instantprint explains: “Sustainability is a key issue the world over … So recycling, donating or regifting any unwanted items should be prioritised ahead of simply throwing them away.”

Here are three ideas for keeping those unwanted gifts out of the bin.

1. Regift when you can

Hoping to do Christmas on a budget this year? Those unwanted socks and soft toys shouldn’t be too hard to pass on to friends or relatives and make for great stocking stuffers. Inappropriate adult-themed gifts can be saved for a hen night or stag do.

2. Donate, donate, donate

Refuges for victims of domestic abuse always welcome donations of new underwear as well as clothes, bath and shower goodies and other basic needs. They’ll also take those soft toys for the children staying at the refuge.

Books can be donated to your local library or you can find a charity like Books2Africa, which sends unwanted books to be distributed to students and teachers in need in Africa. 

3. Organise a present swap with friends

Don’t worry – you likely won’t be the only one with unwanted presents this Christmas. So why not make a fun afternoon of it? Get together and trade gifts for something more to your taste.

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