7 million Halloween costumes are thrown away every year, which works out at around 2.079 million tonnes of brand-new plastics being left to not-really-rot in landfill sites – that’s the equivalent of 83 million Coca Cola bottles.
Here’s a really scary story – a recent survey by Fairyland Trust and Hubbub found that Halloween generates over 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste from clothes and costumes in the UK alone. The report says that the UK is spending a whopping £300 million a year on Halloween-related paraphernalia, with an estimated 55% of the population buying new clothing, especially for the day.
Halloween costumes are particularly bad news for the planet; 83% of the materials used to make the 324 Halloween costumes The Fairyland Trust sampled were made of plastic or plastic-based materials, and it’s estimated that 40% of newly-purchased costumes will be worn just once before hitting the bin. That takes single-use plastics to a scary level. The research estimates that around 7 million Halloween costumes are thrown away every year, which works out at around 2.079 million tonnes of brand-new plastics being left to not-really-rot in landfill sites – that’s the equivalent of 83 million Coca Cola bottles.
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And there’s even more to this bad horror story – food waste from pumpkin carving, single-use plastic waste from trick-or-treat sweets, disposable paper, foil and plastic decorations and toxic face paints.
In a world in which we’re all trying to become more mindful about the planet, there’s no reason environmentally-conscious thinking can’t be extended to Halloween, too. With that in mind, we’ve come up with some tips to help you make sure that you stay green this Halloween.
Cut down on your carving footprint
According to the Guardian, more than half of pumpkin-buyers throw away the flesh after carving it out of the middle and around 8 million pumpkins ended up in landfill after Halloween last year. Repurpose your pumpkin flesh into a seasonal recipe like pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup (we love this recipe from The Happy Pear), and you can dry out and roast the seeds to create a deliciously nutty topping to any soup or salad for the weeks to come. Finally, when Halloween is over, put your pumpkin into the brown bin, not the black.
SHOP YOUR WARDROBE
One of the best ways to dress up with minimum impact is to head over to your local charity shops and vintage stores. Not only is it often more affordable than a ready-made costume but it gives you the opportunity to get creative whilst saving the planet. From a corpse bride using pre-loved white dresses to old black dresses for a witchy get-up to simple everyday clothing emulating your favourite pop culture or historical character (white shirt and black jeans for Mia Wallace anyone?), thrifting has got you covered. WIth second-hand shopping, you’re helping to extend the life cycle of clothing by saving garments from going to landfill. What’s more, buying from charity shops donates money to good causes, and supporting your local vintage sellers helps boost the local economy. You could even bring back the childhood classic witch costume with a bin bag. Or why not borrow or trade costumes with a friend, rather than buying a new one? After all, clothing swapping is very hot right now.
Limit individually-wrapped treats
Sweets are one of the great joys of Halloween for trick-or-treating kids and sweet-toothed adults alike, but individually-wrapped sweets and chocolate create a massive plastic waste problem, and when packed with palm oil, this leads to a destructive impact on animal habitats. This year, try and source sweets wrapped in recyclable paper. This will limit packaged options for now, but it looks as though sustainable mainstream sweet wrappers could be commonplace in the near future. For example, Nestle and Mars have both pledged to make 100 per cent of their packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. You can take your eco-friendly Halloween a step further and buy ‘accidentally vegan’ treats like Jelly Tots, Skittles, Millions, Starbursts and Veggie Percy Pigs. Try ethical Fairtrade chocolate too so you can ensure cocoa farmers weren’t exploited.
Choose decorations made to last
Rather than using plastic, paper and foil to decorate your house this year, opt for all-natural foraged options like pinecones, twigs, pumpkins and leaves. But if you’re determined to stick to the tombstones-and-cauldrons aesthetic, forgo disposable plastic decorations and make your own DIY decor with existing household items, like bunting from old bed linen, spider webs from basic string, cut-out skeletons from scrap paper. Alternatively, if you're not of the creative mind - invest in durable products that you’ll want to use year after year. Think glass lanterns, autumnal wreaths and fabric bats.
Opt for gREEN beauty products
Opt for certified organic and cruelty-free beauty products and biodegradable glitter when sourcing your Halloween makeup. Look for the ‘leaping bunny’ logo for products not tested on animals, or visit Peta for brand listings. You could even buy eco-friendly face paint from specialist retailers for a low-impact Halloween look. Need fake blood for your Halloween costume? Avoid store-bought products packed with toxic chemicals, and make your own simple DIY fake blood with syrup, red food colouring and water.
Main image by Jakob Owens