Why Halloween Waste is the Scariest Monster of Them All in 2024

Halloween pumpkin waste

Environmental group Hubbub conducted a study into Halloween waste and found that a shocking 83% of Halloween costumes used non-recyclable oil-based plastics which meant they were destined to end up in landfill.

To put that into context, that’s around 2000 tonnes of plastic waste or a horrifying 83 million plastic bottles caused by the Halloween festivities.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the plastic polymer used in over 63% of these costumes, polyester, can take anywhere between 20-200 years to decompose.

With the annual celebration of Halloween (October 31st), landfills are being topped up with discarded costumes year-on-year and the monstrous problem of Halloween waste continues to grow.

How much waste does Halloween generate?

In addition to the sheer amount of costumes that end up in landfill, plastic sweets/chocolate wrappers, decorations, and pumpkin waste also contribute greatly to the amount of Halloween waste generated each year.

pumpkins

In the US, over 5.4 million kilograms of textile waste is produced by businesses and consumers throwing away Halloween costumes.

The National Retail Federation estimate that around $2.6 billion is spent on sweets and chocolates for Halloween. These treats, however, are typically wrapped in plastic casings and can’t be recycled. The wrappers, therefore, also end up in landfill.

Lisa Morton, an author/journalist who specialises in researching and writing content around the spooky season claims that:

“A single trick-or-treater generates one pound (half a kilo) of trash at Halloween”.

That’s a frightening amount when you consider how many children are out trick or treating across the globe.

Another scary Halloween waste statistic is that around 1 billion pounds (453 million kilograms) of pumpkins are sent to landfill where they break down and emit methane gas. More about this next.

Is pumpkin carving wasteful?

40% of UK consumers buy pumpkins to carve for Halloween, but 60% report that they don’t use the pumpkin to make any food such as pumpkin soup and instead just throw it into the general waste bin after they’ve finished carving.

pumpkins

A colossal 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins are thrown away each year which is about 360 million portions of pumpkin pie!

But the wasted potential for food is not the scariest thing about pumpkin waste…

When pumpkins are sent to landfill, they decompose and produce an extremely harmful greenhouse gas; methane.

This gas is over 25 times more harmful to the Earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Methane is a key contributor to climate change and reducing it is an environmental priority.

How many Halloween costumes are thrown away each year?

7 million costumes are thrown out each year in the UK alone according to the Hubbub study.

The US has a population 5 times bigger than the UK, so estimates for how many Halloween costumes are thrown away in the US are around 35 million. A truly scary amount.

How do I dispose of old Halloween costumes?

The best approach to tackle the Halloween costume problem is to reuse or donate your outfits.

Instead of throwing your spooky attire into the bin, you should see if you can either re-wear it the following year or give it to a friend/family member. Failing that, you can donate your costume to charities (just make sure to wash it first).

You may also consider making your own Halloween costumes from recyclable materials like cardboard. Everyone loves a homemade costume. Here are some fantastic examples:

halloween skeleton

Halloween waste statistics

  • 94% of families plan on buying costumes for Halloween in 2024

  • 33 million people dress up for the holiday

  • 79% of households with children dress up

  • £300 million is spent at Halloween

  • 7 million costumes are binned each year

  • 83% of Halloween costumes use non-recyclable plastic

  • 4 out of 10 costumes are only worn once

  • The equivalent of 520 elephants of plastic waste is thrown away at Halloween

  • Only 20% of consumers consider sustainability in their Halloween purchases

  • 0.5kg of waste is produced per trick-or-treater
halloween

What can we do about Halloween waste?

The best way to enjoy Halloween in an environmentally friendly way is to use eco-alternatives and to repurpose or recycle where possible.

Reducing Halloween waste in costumes

We recommend that you re-use your old costumes or buy from charity shops this year, or perhaps even make your own!

By reducing the fast-fashion demand for spooky attire you’ll be playing your part in reducing plastic in landfill.

What about pumpkins?

If you’re keen to pumpkin carve this year then you should consider reducing how many pumpkins you buy or, even better, use the leftovers from the carvings to make soups, pies, and other tasty treats.

Once you’re ready to throw away your pumpkin lanterns, you should put them into your compost bin rather than the general waste.

Don’t have a compost bin? Use a friend’s or consider purchasing or making one yourself. They’re fantastic for the environment.

Decorations

Similar to costumes, try to reuse from previous years, buy second-hand, or make your own where possible. If you do want to buy from other retailers then check to see if the decorations are recyclable or of good enough quality to use again next year.

halloween decorations

Sweets and treats

Before going to the shops to buy sweets and chocolates for the trick-or-treaters this year, could you make your own treats? If not, look for products with minimal or recyclable packaging.

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