By Annabel Barker: Columnist
Carved pumpkins, scary films, trick-or-treating, cringy face-paint, ghost stories … yes, Halloween is back on the horizon. What comes to mind when you think of spooky season? The props just mentioned are everywhere we turn, from shop decorations to television adverts. Today, there is something more pressing – and far more frightening – to think about.
Research suggests that over thirty million people from the UK alone dress up for Halloween (Guardian, 2019). At least ninety percent of families buy their costumes. The scariest part? Seven million outfits are thrown away and only a tiny portion of these are recycled.
In 2019, a report by two charities, Hubbub and Fairyland Trust, revealed that 83% of Halloween costume materials contained plastic – the same amount found in at least eighty million plastic bottles. Worse, the polyester found in 63% of these costumes can take anywhere between twenty or two hundred years to break down (2023). On top of that, there is also the single-use plastic found in many Halloween food items and decorations.
Have these scary statistics gone down since 2019? Two years later, Good on You estimated that US consumers were expected to spend at least $10.14 billion on Halloween items, $3.3 billion of which alone spent on costumes (2021), while the University of Leeds reported that three out of five people bought at least one pumpkin – nearly half of which were thrown away (2022).
To make matters worse, pumpkins can be dangerous to wild animals, so don’t think you’ll be doing the planet any favours.
That leaves a question that burns brighter than any jack-o-lantern: how can we celebrate Halloween whilst being kind to the planet?
Thankfully, there are a number of ways on how to enjoy a sustainable spooks fest. For starters, we have plenty of online resources full of tips and tricks to reduce and even avoid waste. Done with that pumpkin?
Make it into soup or experiment with other recipes. Want to avoid single-use plastics? Bake homemade treats such as spider web muffins or ghost-shaped cookies. (click these links for two great recipes).
Not only does that reduce plastic waste, but also cutting down on ultra-processed food and, by using store cupboard ingredients, saving money too.
Now onto dressing up and decoration. Unsure what to do with that old witch’s hat at the back of the cupboard? Wear it again. Fancy a change in costume?
Halloween is usually associated
with red and black,
perhaps more green is needed?
Rent or buy second-hand – charity shops are fantastic for finding castoffs, as are sites such as eBay and Vinted to name but a few. Bored of those cat ears? Donate or sell online. If something really won’t be worn again, why not upcycle it into decorative items, like bunting? The sky is the limit with possibilities.
With a library of tips and tricks at our fingertips, there is now no shortage of waste-free ideas and therefore no excuse for ignorance.
As Chris Rose from the Fairyland Trust said: ‘The scariest thing about Halloween is now plastic.” Truer words have yet to be spoken.
Article Cover Photo: Beccera Govea