Global Action Plan tips on making Halloween more fun, and less scary for the planet.
“It is time to rethink how we celebrate Halloween, and have spooky fun without producing the mountain of plastic pollution and food waste that has come to be associated with the modern way of marking Samhain.”
For many of us, Halloween is the best time of the year. What’s not to like about eating sweets, dressing up and cosying up inside as the weather turns autumnal?
But there is another side to Halloween, and that is about all the waste the festival generates, and the impact it has on our planet. This side of Halloween is truly terrifying.
Just have a look at some of these statistics:
- 40% of Halloween costumes are only worn once, according to figures from UK based company Waste Managed.Some 7 million Halloween costumes are thrown away in the UK each year (we don’t have equivalent figures for Ireland), most of them within days of the Halloween festivities. In the USA, the number of Halloween costumes thrown away each year stands at 35 million.
- An October 2019 survey by the family nature charity Fairyland Trust found that UK Halloween celebrations generate over 2,079 tonnes of plastic waste from clothing and costumes alone. With 83% of the material in Halloween costumes being plastic, the study estimates that festivities related to the scare season generate plastic waste which, by weight of waste plastic, is equivalent to 83 million Coca Cola bottles – over one per person in the UK.
- The US based National Retail Federation estimates that around $2.6 billion is spent on sweets and chocolates for Halloween. These treats are typically in plastic wrappers, with large amounts of that plastic ending up in landfills.
- Lisa Morton, an author and Halloween expert claims that: “A single trick-or-treater generates one pound (half a kilo) of trash at Halloween”.
- An estimated 60% of pumpkins bought for Halloween end up in landfill, where they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
- In the USA, an estimated 453 million kilograms of pumpkins are binned. In the UK (again, we don’t have figures for Ireland) a colossal 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins are thrown away each year.
- In 2019, it was estimated that the total spend on Halloween in Ireland would be in the region of €49 million, down from €65 million in 2017.
- It is estimated that Americans spend around $2.36 billion on plastic decorations each year that end up in landfills.
In short, in the space of just a few days, Halloween produces a mountain of extra plastic pollution and food waste.
Time to celebrate differently
It is clear that the dark side of Halloween is a serious issue. But luckily, there are many ways in which we can change that.
Here are some of GAP’s tips for a Halloween that is less scary for the planet.
1. Reuse Costumes
What is cooler than a home-made costume? Show your artistic side and make your own costume! Or if you don’t trust your designer skills, why not repurpose and recycle your Halloween costume from last year? You will save money, too.
When it comes to costumes, here are the top tips:
- Use what you’ve already got – wear it again!
- Swap outfits with friends, or organise a costume swap in your school or community centre.
- Buy second hand – charity shops have lots of choice.
- Make your own, preferably using recyclable materials like cardboard.
2. Eat your pumpkin, don’t throw it away!
With about 40% of the households in Ireland paying for pumpkins every year – and each household typically ordering 2 pumpkins – discarded pumpkins are a significant part of the waste generated during Halloween.
A quick online search will give you plenty of great recipes of how to eat your pumpkin. Have you tried pumpkin soup, pumpkin hummus, or pumpkin pie? Instead of throwing away the seeds, try roasted pumpkin seeds, or using them in home-made crunchy granola. (And make sure to compost the leftovers)
3. Get creative with decorations
Halloween is all about the decorations. Create your own spooky atmosphere, by using natural materials, such as dried leaves and sticks. And why not use pumpkins as decorations? Remember that you can still use them in cooking or baking afterwards!
The top tips:
- Make your own scary art using paper instead of plastic
- Avoid buying new decorations. If you do, put them somewhere safe for next year!
- Donate, recycle and repair Halloween decorations. Don’t put them in the bin.