Forget witches, ghosts, and goblins, the true horror of Halloween is all of the plastic that is likely to land in landfills the week after trick or treat.
Next to Christmas, Halloween is the holiday Americans love to decorate for the most. Some decorations can be composted, like jack-o-lanterns and corn stalks. Others can be stuffed in storage and reused from year to year.
At some point, though, your spooky paraphernalia hits its shelf life. Each year, approximately 7 million Halloween costumes alone end up in the trash (the equivalent of 83 million plastic bottles), not to mention all of the plastic candy wrappers, plastic lawn decorations, and plastic trick-or-treat bags.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Halloween decorations can’t be recycled by your local waste collection facility—the cheap mixed materials plastic is too complex to be recycled. That doesn’t mean your old plastic Halloween decorations have to find their ghastly end in a garbage dump somewhere.
Before you trash the plastic, here’s how you can put it back into use.
Store-bought Halloween costumes are typically made of plastic… and wrapped in plastic bags. Both the costume and the packaging they come in are typically not recyclable, but you can still delay that costume’s demise several different ways:
Reuse. Before you buy a new costume, take inventory of the costumes in your closet already. No one is going to remember that you were also a witch in 2015, Barbara.
Set Up a Costume Swap. This is especially effective when you have a houseful of kids. Joe can be that inflatable dinosaur that Tim was last year, and the neighbor kids absolutely love PJ Masks now, even if your crew outgrew the show years ago.
Make Your Own. Anyone can walk into their local convenience store and buy some generic superhero suit, but not everyone has an old yellow prom dress they’ve kept the last 20 years that looks oddly like Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The best costumes come from stuff you’ve shoved into the back of your closet. Get creative and save both money and the planet.
Go Thrifting. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and in this instance, one man’s discarded Auto Mechanic shirt is another man’s Halloween costume.
Donate Your Costume. When your kids are too big for their masks and plastic costumes, skip the trash and take them to a local charity for someone else to use.
Plastic bags and pumpkins for trick-or-treat often become a single-use product that finds itself floating in a sea of other plastics shortly after the snack-sized Snickers are consumed. Instead of using plastic bags or plastic pumpkins to collect candy this Halloween, make a more sustainable choice:
Use What You’ve Got. In the Good Ol’ Days, we didn’t use any pumpkin shaped plastic orb to collect a bunch of candy once a year; we pulled the Smurf pillowcase from our beds and filled it with our candy booty like real miniature hobos. You can use wicker baskets, pillowcases, cloth bags, tote bags, and other creative additions that can serve as a complement to your costume, even.
Reduce Candy Wrapper Waste. A great way to avoid plastics is to give away candy that isn’t wrapped in plastic. Choose products that are wrapped in paper or foil instead, both of which are recyclable.
Unfortunately, most of the plastic Halloween decorations you find at the store aren’t able to be recycled. Before you buy more decor, look around your home for what you already have (remember those giant spiders you stuffed into a bin last year?) and get creative about how you might be able to repurpose items you already own.
Ghosts made from sheets and scarecrows made from old flannels and jeans stuffed with leaves are unique and sustainable options you can make as scary or as cute as you want.
Another great way to go green (and orange) this Halloween is to use natural decorations, like pumpkins, cornstalks, gourds, and sunflowers. Choose decorations that are made from recyclable materials, like cardboard witch cutouts and paper ghosts.
Although there are still a lot of plastic products on the market that aren’t yet recyclable, more and more innovative businesses are finding ways to reduce plastic waste.
Return Polymers is proud to be one of the leading recyclers of rigid PVC. With our parent company, AZEK, we’re turning millions of pounds of rigid PVC back into functional, durable, and quality outdoor products, including decking, siding, and furniture.
If your Halloween decorations are made of rigid PVC, you can give it to us. Who knows, maybe someday your PVC bats, PVC horror movie silhouettes, and PVC gravestone yard signs will find resurrected life in the form of outdoor furniture!
Find out what else Return Polymers collects here, or contact us for more information.« Back to Blog