Clean Halloween: 10 ideas for celebrating the spooky season with less waste

Getting ready for Halloween? From costumes and decorations, to trick-or-treats and the party, here are tips on how to celebrate while also reducing waste.

Family in Halloween costumes

For the party

1. Serve food and drinks in non-plastic wares: It is always best to use actual crockery, silverware, and glasses. If you really must use disposable wares, consider biodegradable or recyclable options made of wood and paper. You can also serve food that can be consumed using only wooden sporks, skewers, or chopsticks. Make sure that these materials are properly disposed of after use.

2. Recycle Halloween party drink containers: “Recycling your bottles and cans ensures that they can stay in the loop and be turned into new containers, again and again,” explains Zara Lauder, Senior Communication Manager at TOMRA Collection, which provides reverse vending machines for collecting drink containers for recycling. “At your Halloween event, allocate one bin or bag where your guests can collect all their used drink containers, so they can be returned for recycling afterwards, to your nearest reverse vending machine or recycling depot.” Doing this also helps make the post-party clean-up easier for you.

Boys returning containers to reverse vending machine

For costumes

3. Check what you already have in your closet: The majority of costumes are purchased new and only worn once before being discarded, and are typically made from non-recyclable, synthetic materials. Before buying new costumes, check your existing wardrobe for options. Upcycle old clothes with your sewing skills or add other accessories; let your creativity flow!

4. Donate your old costumes or get a costume second hand: This way, the costume pieces aren't just wasted in landfills, because textiles can take up to 200 years to decompose. Try a thrift store or local listings for second-hand items. Other options are to rent your costume or to exchange last year's costumes for a "new" outfit with family or friends by hosting a costume swap. Aside from reducing waste, it’s free! 

5. If you're buying a new costume, consider pieces that would fit more than one character: For example, a long black dress can be used to portray a witch, a vampire, Morticia Addams, or an evil fairytale villain. Just style it differently every year!

For trick-or-treating

Image of Halloween treats6. Consider the packaging for your candy: “Confectionery wrappers are usually made of mixed materials and difficult to recycle. And, since they are generally small, they can be easy to lose and end up as litter,” explains Zara Lauder at TOMRA Collection. “Check your local guides for how to sort sweets and lolly wrappers in your region, to make sure you dispose of them properly. Otherwise, choose candy that comes in more easily recyclable packaging, like cardboard.”

7. Put home-made treats in sustainable packaging: If you’ll be making your own Halloween treats to exchange with family and friends, help cut down waste by using reusable or recyclable wrapping. For example, you can bake your own Halloween cookies and place them in little paper boxes.

8. Make your own trick-or-treat bag: You can upcycle an old pillowcase or bag by decorating or painting it to suit the Halloween mood! The treats bag can be stored away after the occasion and used again next year.

For decorations

9. Upcycle DIY decorations from old textiles. Use old black socks to create spiders or bats, torn stockings to hang as cobwebs, or old white bedsheets as ghosts. If you don't have what you need on hand, again look at buying second hand or swapping decorations with friends and family. Decorations can be stored and used again in the coming years.

10. Create decorations from biodegradable materials. Create a jack-o'-lantern by carving a real pumpkin instead of buying a plastic one (then use the seeds to make soup and reduce food waste), draw on eggshells to turn them into mini skulls or use other natural materials like leaves and straw. After the party, these decorations can be used as compost.

Girl carving jack-o'lantern
This Halloween, remember to keep waste organized for collection and disposal, minimize single-use materials as much as possible, and reuse or donate. Celebrating a more low-waste Halloween is possible – and taking measures to reduce waste can help you enjoy the occasion without the ghosts of litter and waste haunting you for the coming days. Have a Happy Halloween!