As American’s get ready to celebrate the year’s most frightening festivities, the scariest thing about Halloween is not the ghosts, ghouls, and goblins, but the terrifying amounts of trash generated in the space of a few short hours on October 31st.
From rotting jack-o-lanterns through non-biodegradable candy wrappers to single-use decorations, Halloween has recently built a reputation for being a particularly wasteful holiday, and despite increasing awareness around the impact of our waste, spending on Halloween-related items is set to rise to $10.14 billion in 2021.
According the NRF, a significant proportion of this figure is likely to be spent on costumes, with some 3.32 billion dollars shelled out this year alone. However, with the exception of 2021 and the impact of COVID-19 restrictions, this figure is pretty similar to the past five years. The question is then, if spending on costumes remains the same each year, what happens to all those old costumes on November 1st?
The simple answer is, they’re thrown away or forgotten about, and our landfills are heaving with the single-use plastics, both biodegradable and non-biodegradable textiles, and other environmentally damaging materials contained within them. So, with Halloween fast approaching, what can we do to keep costumes out of the trash, and how can we ensure Halloween is celebrated sustainably.
The State of Halloween Costume Waste
One study conducted in 2019 estimated that around 2,000 tons of plastic waste is generated from disposable Halloween clothing in the UK alone. That equates to some 83 million plastic bottles ending up in landfill, and this doesn’t even account for other materials contained within costumes, only scratching the surface of the impact of this single day of celebration.
Sadly, while estimates for the US are difficult to come by, those figures are likely to be significantly higher. Not only is there a much larger population to consider, but Americans are, on the whole, much more likely to celebrate this holiday in style, with other countries often taking a more traditional approach to festivities.
In addition to these issues, the amount of textile waste in the US is already significant, with the EPA estimating that 17,030,000 tons of textile waste was generated in 2018, with 11,300,000 tons sent to landfill. Much of this waste can be attributed to fast fashion trends, of which, purchasing a “disposable” Halloween costume for single use is the very worst example.
Tips for Keeping Costumes out of the Trash
When it comes to keeping Halloween costumes out of the trash, first and foremost, reduction and reuse of materials should be the priority. That means using costumes from previous celebrations again this year, adapting existing clothing to create a new costume, or making a costume out of waste materials.
If you’re a bit tired of wearing the same costume year after year, you can always consider swapping your 2nd hand outfit with someone else. In the US, there are plenty of options for doing this, and Halloween costume swaps are becoming increasingly popular. Additionally, you can simply speak to friends or family and see what they have stored away in the attic.
If you decide to purchase a new costume, then choosing materials carefully with end-of-life in mind can also help avoid the most damaging types of waste. This means avoiding single-use, petroleum-based plastics; avoiding polyester which creates microplastics and is the largest single-component of clothing in the world, and also avoiding other non-biodegradable materials which cannot be recycled and have the potential to pollute the environment.
Finally, any costumes that you do buy or make should be cared for so they can be used again or donated for others to use next year. That way, waste is kept out of landfill and less waste is generated by new, more damaging costumes being purchased each year. Weendream.org even goes a step further by allowing users to donate suitable costumes to needy children across the US.
However you decide to celebrate Halloween this year, give a thought to the environment as you do so—whether that’s composting your old jack-o-lanterns, making your own package-free candy, or reusing your old costume.
To learn more about how to keep your Halloween costume and other plastics out of landfill and how you can reduce all types of waste, subscribe to our blog. Additionally, speak with one of our TRUE Waste Advisors to learn how to improve waste and recycling practices in your business.