Halloween is the spookiest night of the year with ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night, but it’s not just the costumes and masks that make this annual holiday so scary. The 31st of October is the UK’s third most profitable holiday (beating New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day and Black Friday) but also one of the most wasteful.
With such an abundance of low-quality outfits, pumpkins, sweets in plastic wrapping and ultra-cheap decorations, it’s expected that the UK will spend £687million in 2022 on Halloween alone.
While great for businesses, this spooky holiday terrorises the planet. With outfits that only get worn once and decorations that don’t stay up much longer than a week, Halloween festivities create roughly 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year, the equivalent of 83 million plastic bottles. That means that a single trick-or-treater generates around one pound of trash at Halloween.
Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday for all ages. We want everyone to enjoy the spooky season, but not at the expense of the planet. The scariest thing about the 31st of October should be your costume, not the impact it leaves on the environment.
You can still enjoy the spooky season without leaving a nasty and lasting impact on the environment.
Halloween is dominated by fast fashion, with brands churning out new pop-culture costumes every year for adults, children and even pets. A UK charity, Fairyland Trust, surveyed costumes from popular clothing retailers such as ASOS, Boohoo, Pretty Little Thing, TK Maxx, and Zara and found that each outfit was, on average, made from 83% plastic.
With 7 million costumes estimated to end up in landfill every year, that’s over 2 tonnes of plastic waste generated by Halloween outfits alone.
This year, you can do a few things to ensure that your spooky costume will still achieve a scream or two but not impact the environment as much.
Utilise your local charity shops before Halloween and after the night’s passed. You can find hidden gems at most charity shops or vintage fairs. Get into the creative space and make your own outfit, which will only make you appreciate your costume more.
If you’ve already bought your costume and, like 37% of the UK population, only plan on wearing it once, don’t throw it in the bin. Consider reselling it, gifting it to a friend for a future event or donating it to charity. That way, you’ll reduce your costumes overall impact on the planet.
Facebook, Vinted, Depop and eBay are all great places to shop. You will surely find plenty of costumes waiting for you and your family. With most costumes worn once, it will be hard to notice that it’s not straight off the shelf. Plus, it will no doubt cost you less and can even be resold again through the same app after.
You might not have any costumes lying around, but that doesn’t mean your friends don’t. Even if they don’t have an entire outfit, maybe you can pair items they have with something in your own wardrobe to make a sustainable Halloween costume. Ask around, and you may be surprised by what you end up with!
Curious to know more about the impact of fast fashion? Then check out our previous blog post - Fast Fashion & Why Is It Bad?
Pumpkins or Jack-O-Lanterns are great fun for the whole family, from picking them to carving them. In 2021, the UK bought 17 million pumpkins, costing £25 million. When asked, 60% of consumers felt that pumpkin carvings had little to no effect on the planet and said that they normally throw them in the trash once Halloween is over as they're compostable. However, that’s not exactly true.
Each year, 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins are thrown into landfill, equivalent to 360 million portions of pumpkin pie. While pumpkins decompose, when left to rot in landfill, they emit a greenhouse gas called methane which has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide.
To lower the impact your carved friend has after Halloween, a few things you can do are:
Pumpkins are highly nutritious. From the flesh to the seeds, they contain fibre and vitamins A, C and E. You can find plenty of recipes online, including soups, pies and desserts that are to cook and tasty to consume.
If you live by a farm or animal sanctuary, you can donate your cut pumpkins for the animals to eat once you’re done with them.
If you’re a regular at composting, wipe off any paint or wax from the lantern, chop it up and throw it in your compost instead of the bin. Local authorities in many locations that provide food waste disposals will happily take them off your hands too.
Similarly to costumes, Halloween decorations tend to be made from cheap plastics and only used once. In 2021, 51% of people dressed up their homes for the night with banners, fake cobwebs, skeletons, fake blood and spiders, spending just under £3 billion on decor.
No matter how small the decorations are, their impact on the environment is monumental. As they break down into microplastics, they flood our oceans and wildlife and end up climbing up the food chain.
You can do plenty of things to decorate your home and garden without adding to the plastic crisis.
There’s a reason cheap decorations don’t last long. Inexpensive can often mean poor quality, and poor quality means a short lifespan. If you decorate your home annually, spend a little more on your decorations so they last longer. As long as you pack them away carefully, your spider webs, skeletons and bunting will last for years to come.
Make your own decor. Old tights stuffed with socks can be made to look like spider legs. Just a sock and a few elastic bands can make little pumpkins. Old bottles can be dripped with candle wax for a spooky aesthetic, and any paper found around the home can be folded into bats.
A quick search for ‘Halloween’ on Facebook Marketplace will almost certainly bring up multiple rows of pre-loved decorations in your area; some that may never even have been opened. It’s true what they say - one man’s garbage is another man’s treasure.