Halloween will likely be different this year. While some changes from traditions can be disappointing, change also presents an opportunity to start new traditions. The NOAA Marine Debris Program has some fun options to reduce waste during your Halloween celebrations this year, and for many Halloweens to come!
1) Prevent candy wrappers from becoming marine debris
Regardless of how you celebrate Halloween this year, big bags of candy will still temptingly be on sale. Unfortunately, in almost all locations, candy wrappers are not accepted in municipal recycling programs. Many wrappers are made of multiple types of materials, such as plastic and foil, making them more difficult to effectively recycle. Even wrappers consisting of a single, usually recyclable, material will likely slip through recycling sorting machinery due to the wrapper’s small size, and will be treated as trash. Luckily, across the country there are various organizations, such as TerraCycle, that collect common items not accepted at municipal recycling programs, including candy wrappers. If you aren’t able to find an organization to send your wrappers to, please make sure you secure them in your trash. Littered wrappers and other types of plastic can easily get lost or swept up when doing yard work and harm our environment.
2) Bake fun Halloween-themed treats instead of buying candy
To avoid candy wrappers altogether, you could bake Halloween cupcakes or other treats for your household. Consider using reusable cupcake wrappers, or grease your cupcake tins and don’t include wrappers at all. If neither of these are options for you, opt for paper cupcake liners rather than the foil ones. You can decorate cupcakes for Halloween with common ingredients like peppermint creme cookies, white and dark chocolate chips, food coloring and vanilla frosting, marshmallows, and sprinkles. Feel free to get creative and try adding your own ideas! Another bonus is that the cupcakes can be fun decorations, and to clean up, all you have to do is eat them!
3) Use natural decorations
Many Halloween decorations are made from plastic or other human-made materials that could end up as marine debris if they are blown away or improperly disposed of. A good alternative is to use natural decorations. Even if you didn’t make it to the pumpkin patch this year, you can probably find other squash varieties in the grocery produce section. You could also decorate with dried corn, hay bales, fall leaves, flowers, or a variety of other options. When you are ready to clean up your natural decorations, consider finding a resource to compost them, or find a place you could leave it to decompose naturally.
4) Reuse items to create your own spooky decorations
Another option for decorations that can help prevent marine debris is to repurpose common household items. To make creations like those pictured, use hot glue to write a creepy saying or any other spooky details on a glass jar. Once it has dried, paint over it with whichever colors you prefer, or come up with ways to display spooky components inside a non-painted jar. It is up to you how spooky you want to get, but the best part is that you will have Halloween decorations that can be used year after year, made from things that would otherwise have been disposed of!
5) Make and repurpose your costume
Finally, you can be creative when figuring out your costume. Avoid an extra trip to the store and use clothing and materials you already have instead of buying something new. When you are done with your costume, consider finding ways to reuse it, such as cutting it up into cleaning rags, or tie or sew clothing to make a reusable shopping bag. While clothing items may not seem like a threat to our environment, many materials shed microfibers, and these can become marine debris when they get carried by the wind or washed down a storm drain. If you can’t come up with a way to reuse parts or all of your costume, consider donating, rather than just throwing it away.
6) Conduct your own Halloween waste audit
If you already have your Halloween tricks and treats planned out, another great option is to monitor the waste you produce this Halloween. Then you have a whole year to come up with ways to address and reduce that waste next year! The NOAA Marine Debris program has some great resources for conducting a waste audit if you want to try it out!
However you decide to celebrate Halloween this year, we hope that you do it safely. Whether you are reducing, repurposing, or reusing this Halloween, we can all have some fun and celebrate, while protecting our environment too!