Halloween is a spooky time of year for many, but one of the scariest parts of this day is the amount of waste it produces.
According to the Retail Council of Canada, a 2014 study found that Canadians spend more per capita ($70) on costumes, candy, and decorations than those in the US. This spooky holiday is said to be a $1 billion-dollar-industry in our country.
That’s why it’s important to be mindful when Oct. 31 rolls around, says city Waste & Recycling Services program management leader Sharon Howland.
“There’s a lot of additional plastic packaging, such as single-use costume and decor items. It’s a really sweet holiday, but it can also be a frightfully wasteful one,” she says.
“There’s lots of disposable decorations, costumes, and packaging that come with the season.”
The first category Howland says people can reduce their waste is costumes and decorations.
“When prepping for Halloween, we encourage people to consider creating their costume or decorations from clothes or materials that they already own, rather than going out and buying,” she explains.
“You can swap costumes with a friend, or visit a second-hand store for more options.”
Get crafty with your decor
For decorations, Howland recommends getting crafty and using household items such as old jars or cans to create lanterns.
“Use natural products like leaves, pumpkins, or gourds for decor. If they’re going to purchase new items, we recommend purchasing durable decorations and costume pieces that can be reused each year,” she says.
“We like avoiding those items that are designed to be thrown away after one use, like the artificial spider webs. So buy things that can be reused, store them for next year, or donate them so that someone else can enjoy them after you.”
That doesn’t go in the garbage
There’s usually a spike in plastic garbage after Halloween, and Howland has some advice for that unavoidable waste that can’t be easily recycled.
“Most of the tiny treats that you get at Halloween, a lot of the costume items, they’re made of non-recyclable plastic packaging. So all of those little plastic wrappers and chip bags, they all need to go in the garbage bins,” she says.
“We want to avoid letting contamination creep into our blue and green bins.”
Some things are recyclable, including Smarties box containers for example, and the cardboard packaging some costumes come in.
One of the biggest leftovers from Halloween belongs in the green bin: pumpkins.
“We want to encourage people to take advantage of green carts and compost. So Jack O’ Lanterns, remove the candles and lights and all of the decorations before they put them in.”
And please; don’t throw your costumes into your recycle bins
“Costume pieces in the recycling bins are some of the strangest things we’ll see. Maybe someone’s made themselves a giant foam store hammer or something like that,” she says, adding that those items should be donated or reused if possible.
“That needs to go in your garbage bin if you can’t come up with a reuse for it. People love to go second-hand shopping… why not donate that or hang on to it so that your little brother or sister can use that same costume next year.”
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