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The Horrors of Halloween Waste in the UK!

Halloween used to be a very American tradition, but now, more and more Brits are embracing the spooky season! This year, people in the UK are predicted to spend more than ever before on scary festivities. Parties, trick-or-treating and carving pumpkins are all fun traditions, but can lead to a frightening amount of waste.

It’s been estimated that 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste – equivalent to 83 million Coca-Cola bottles – is created in the UK each year from throwaway Halloween clothing. Fancy dress costumes aren’t the only wasteful aspect of the witching hour either, with leftover pumpkins, sweet wrappers and discarded decorations leaving a mark too.

There are several eco-friendly tactics to reduce harm to the planet, as well as get the most out of your Halloween spending, such as making use of your available storage space for festive decor! However, in October last year, searches for “sustainable Halloween” decreased by 67% compared to 2021.

To find out how many Brits are factoring sustainability into this year’s Halloween festivities, we conducted a brand-new survey. In this blog post, we’ll reveal our scary findings and how you can make your Halloween as green as the Wicked Witch of the West!

Storing and Re-wearing Halloween Costumes

Dressing up for spooky season isn’t just for kids — it’s also for adults and even pets! recently predicted this year’s trends, with Barbie, Little Mermaid, Wednesday, and Spider-Man costumes likely to appear. However, participating in trends usually contributes to waste, as it calls for new costumes, rather than bringing out old favourites you’ve kept from previous years.

With more people getting involved in dressing for the occasion, the risk of costumes being sent to landfill becomes even greater. Previous reports stated that the UK throws away 7 million Halloween costumes each year. However, our findings discovered that second-hand options are becoming more popular.

The second-hand marketplace Depop has 8,218 listings under “Halloween costume” at the time of writing. Additionally, Vinted currently has 280 women’s Halloween costumes for under £1! Purchasing pre-loved costumes allows you to choose a new character to embody, without hurting the environment or your bank balance.

Last October, searches were down by a third for “boohoo halloween costume”, “amazon halloween costume” and “buy halloween costume”, compared to the year prior. These findings suggest that fewer people are looking for fast-fashion scary looks.

In our survey, 34% of the respondents who dressed up for Halloween said they re-wear costumes they already own, and just over a fifth make costumes themselves! Of the costume-wearers, 16% still buy a new costume each year, nearly a tenth opt for second-hand costumes, and around 5% either hire or borrow.

According to the results, people in the North East were least likely to dress up for Halloween while more residents in Scotland embraced the spooky tradition.

Do Brits Reuse their Halloween Decorations?

In our survey, 60% of the respondents who decorate their homes for Halloween responsibly use what they already own and another 15% make their own. Three-quarters of the decoration enthusiasts also said they would store their decorations for next year.

Unfortunately, another 13% admitted they buy new each year and only around 5% either hire, borrow or buy second-hand decorations. While many people look for pre-loved clothing, buying used decorations hasn’t quite taken off.

Although, at the time of writing, Depop had 1,087 listings for Halloween decorations and Vinted had another 352 listings for new Halloween decorations for under £5!

People aged between 45 and 54 years old were most likely to buy new decorations from retailers each year. The previous generation of 35 to 44-year-olds were more likely to make use of what they already had stored.

Instead of buying hoards of decorations each year, purchasing one or two items will ensure your collection builds up slowly, so that it doesn’t create a financial burden. If possible, investing in higher quality products will also ensure you don’t need to replace them quickly and send them to landfill.

Avoid Wasting Leftover Halloween Sweets

Our survey revealed that giving out trick-or-treat sweets was the most celebrated festivity out of the traditions included. Yet, Londoners and people aged 55 and above were least likely to buy trick-or-treat sweets in the first place!

Of the respondents who bought trick-or-treat sweets, more than half do the obvious with their leftovers — keep and eat them! Whereas, 20% are more charitable and give them away and 16% responsibly only buy a small amount to avoid waste. Thankfully, not even 5% throw the sweets away.

However, there’s still the problem of the non-recyclable plastic wrappers. Apparently, the average trick-or-treater generates one pound of rubbish. You can make homemade treats or buy sweets with minimal or recyclable packaging such as foil or paper to minimise waste.

The Dangers of Disposable Halloween Party Gear

Of the respondents who throw Halloween parties, nearly half said they don’t use disposable gear such as plastic cutlery and cups and paper plates. The most common reason for not using them was because of wastefulness, followed by the need to save money.

However, a quarter of the party throwers still opted for this option to make hosting easier, and another tenth used throwaway tableware to add to the party’s theme.

For Halloween lovers, investing in reusable themed party gear that you can store away throughout the year will ensure the aesthetic of the night isn’t impacted, without having to contribute to waste. Alternatively, if you need them for just one night, consider whether anyone you know has items you could borrow.

Different Uses for Halloween Pumpkins

It’s previously been reported that 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins are thrown away each year, which equals around 360 million portions of pumpkin pie! However, it’s not just a waste of tasty ingredients as it can also be hugely damaging to the planet.

When sent to landfill, pumpkins decompose and produce the extremely harmful gas, methane, which is over 20 times more harmful to the Earth’s atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

In 2022, searches for pumpkin recipes declined to the lowest level since 2019 — a 33% decrease from 2020 when more people wanted creative ways to stay busy at home. The searches for leftover pumpkin ideas have also stayed relatively low, suggesting people aren’t looking for creative ways to use the remaining pumpkin.

Of the survey respondents who buy pumpkins for Halloween, a tenth throw the leftovers away into general waste bins. However, the most popular option was to compost the pumpkins, followed by cooking with the leftovers, throwing them away into food bins and then feeding the leftovers to animals.

If you’re purely interested in having the aesthetic of pumpkins over Halloween, consider buying pumpkin-designed ornaments that you can store throughout the year without having to worry about waste.

Taking part in the Halloween fun is nothing to be afraid of, but being mindful of your purchases is a good way to limit your spending and carbon footprint! Although most people don’t have an endless amount of storage space at home, you don’t need to store much to partake in the festivities. Keeping the odd box of costumes and decorations that you can reuse will ensure you’re prepared for Halloween parties each year.

Ben Sutton-Jones

By Ben Sutton-Jones

Ben has worked in the storage industry for over a decade. His expertise and knowledge is often called upon by colleagues and customers alike. He has a passion for writing, and so branching out into blogging was a natural move. Ben is a keen reader and also follows many sports, especially football. He is a beekeeper in his spare time and enjoys tending to his bees. If he's lucky he may even get to harvest a little honey from time to time.

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