Have a waste free Halloween
October 12, 2020
Halloween is the third biggest sales period for retailers in the UK after Christmas and Easter and unfortunately, with an increase in sales comes a corresponding increase in waste. Many Halloween items are designed to be used for a short time only and not built to last, often made using inexpensive non-recyclable materials. The environmental impact is high and dealing with the resultant waste can be a Halloween nightmare.
Obviously, this year Halloween is likely to be slightly different due to the Covid pandemic with many national and local restrictions discouraging the traditional door to door trick or treating. However, that doesn’t mean that Halloween is cancelled entirely and so we have put together some tips to help you enjoy a safe and fun but minimal waste Halloween.
This year is certainly an opportunity to really stop and think before we buy and to select wisely when we do. It’s worth keeping in mind the waste hierarchy below, which favours avoiding the production of waste to begin with and then guides us through the next best options, with reuse and then recycling and finally disposing of anything else responsibly as a last resort.
We’ve included plenty of information, including guidance on recycling and disposing of items responsibly. Use the links provided below to navigate the content:
Batteries and WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment)
Top tips for a low waste Halloween
Grow your own pumpkin
Many people have had a go at growing some (or more) of their own vegetables this year, encouraged during the period of lockdown earlier in the year. It’s not only incredibly rewarding to watch something you’ve planted grow but spending time outdoors is particularly good for our health and well-being. If you haven’t considered it before then perhaps it’s something to explore for next year. Seeds can be sown from April to June. However, pumpkins and winter squash do take up quite a lot of space.
They also require a huge amount of water and so if you are growing your own then having a water butt is a good idea. Pumpkin flesh contains no fat and is a great source of potassium and beta-carotene. It also contains minerals including calcium and magnesium, as well as vitamins E, C and B.
Cook your pumpkin
As a rule, small pumpkins taste better than large ones – they’re less stringy and grainy and have thicker, less watery flesh. Remember, there’s no such thing as a ‘carving pumpkin’, they are all edible, it’s just that smaller pumpkins tend to have more flavour.
Whatever pumpkin you choose and how you cook it, make sure to retain the seeds, either for sowing again next year (dry them and store them till you need them), feeding the birds, or for roasting and eating.
If you really don’t fancy cooking your pumpkin, you might consider using it to make a range of beauty treatments instead. It’s also worth remembering that other vegetables and fruits can be carved too, see page 4 of our Composting Chronicle from 2018.
Whatever you choose to carve do please dispose of the remains responsibly. A home compost bin is ideal and for those of you that haven’t already got one, Leicester and Leicestershire residents can buy a compost bin at a subsidised price.
If you can’t compost at home, but do have some outdoor space then it’s worth considering that many garden birds, insects and other wildlife will appreciate feeding on a pumpkin, take a look at some suggestions. Once your pumpkin starts to rot it can be smashed up and the pieces buried in the soil in your garden (cover the pieces with soil to a depth of 15-25 cm) where it will decompose completely over time and add nutrients to your soil. If you don’t have a compost bin or a garden, then you can put the pumpkin in your general waste bin. Please note that pumpkins shouldn’t be put in your garden waste collection bin.
Halloween fun and activities
While traditionally people tend to dress up and go trick or treating at Halloween, this year it isn’t being encouraged. However, if you do still intend to go trick or treating then it’s worth double checking at www.gov.uk before you go.
Why not enjoy the following low waste activities instead of going out?
- Make own toffee apples which can be decorated as you chose.
- Have a game of Snap Apple – tie string around apples (one for each person playing) and hang them from a tree branch, washing line, or similar. Ensure that the apple ends up at mouth height or slightly lower for each player. The idea is to eat the whole apple without touching it with your hands. You could give a prize to the person that manages to take a bite of theirs first. It’s not as easy as it sounds and you could exchange the apple for a doughnut if that sounds more appealing.
- Have a go at bobbing for apples – float apples in a large basin filled with water. The idea is to grab one of the apples and remove it from the water using only your mouth. Hands are kept behind players’ backs.
- Watch a scary film together as a family.
- Prepare your own indoor Halloween treasure hunt, either in the garden, or indoors if you don’t fancy venturing outside.
- Decorate your house with your own homemade recyclable decorations, there’s plenty of inspiration on the internet. Or alternatively buy decorations that will last for years to come.
- Have fun making your own Halloween mask from cardboard. You could turn it into a competition with a prize for the best mask.
- Why not dim the lights, put on some spooky music in the background and take it in turns to tell a ghost story?
Make your own costumes
If you want to dress up, you could have a look at making your own costumes. This year many people have turned their hand to sewing for the first time. There are lots of ideas for inspiration and ‘how to’ guides online. Whatever you make, keep your creations and use them again next year. Costumes can always be altered and tweaked where required. If you don’t already have everything you need, then check out your local charity shop. If you’re not a confident sewer then keep things simple and maybe just raid your wardrobe to wear a Halloween colour-themed outfit instead.
There are also a growing number of websites and apps that might help you find what you need (and to help you re-home your costume after you are done with it):
Store and reuse your Halloween items for next year
Why not decorate a box to store your decorations and costumes in? Do remember to remove batteries from anything that’s likely to be in storage for extended periods of time though, as this will prevent corrosion, and will help to prolong the life of the battery and the item itself. The batteries can be used elsewhere until they’re dead and then, if not rechargeable, can be recycled. It’s very important to recycle your batteries responsibly, they need to be kept separate from the other waste materials otherwise they can be a hazard and an environmental issue. They should never be put into your recycling bin or your general waste bin but instead recycle them at your nearest battery collection point.
Cosmetics & make up removal
Face paints aren’t recyclable but you can keep the waste to a minimum by making your own using items from the kitchen: How to make your own face paint.
If you intend to buy face paints then invest in a quality set that can be kept and reused next year without letting them dry out. When it’s time to wash face paints off, please avoid wet wipes which can’t be recycled. You could try making your own washable make-up remover pads, or use a flannel instead.
Tips for disposing of common Halloween items
Pumpkin / Jack O’Lantern
As mentioned earlier, in the section ‘grow your own’, either compost at home, bury in your garden, or as a last resort put in your general waste bin. Remember that pumpkins shouldn’t be put in your garden waste collection.
Unless your council allows the use of a dedicated collection bag, textiles including clothing, footwear, handbags, belts, towels, blankets, duvets, and pillows should not be disposed of in your kerbside recycling. Costumes in good condition can be sold or given away (see here). Charity shops will typically accept all kinds of textiles even if they aren’t in good enough condition to be re-worn, but remember to mark the bag as rags (charities can get an income by selling rags). Remember to follow Covid 19 guidance which has been put in place to protect staff, volunteers and the public. It is advisable to check what donations the charity shop is accepting before arriving. If you don’t have a nearby charity shop, use a textiles/clothes bank – you can find your nearest textiles/clothes bank here. Never leave clothes in front of a closed charity shop or in front of a clothes bank – this is fly-tipping and is a criminal offence.
Plastic decorations and toys
These items should be kept and reused whenever possible. If not then then they can be sold or given away. There are lots of options for doing that, including freecycle, freegle and ebay, along with your local charity shop.
Unfortunately the majority of plastic decorations and toys are made from hard plastics, often mixed with other materials, which can’t be recycled via kerbside recycling collections in Leicestershire. If you have toys you want to dispose of please use your general waste bin not your recycling collection.
However, toys and decorations that contain batteries, or which can be charged up, or which plug into the mains electricity supply are a bit different.
These items are classed as WEEE (Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment) and are covered by legislation that determines how they are collected, treated and disposed of. WEEE can be recycled at many locations around Leicestershire including Recycling and Household Waste Sites.
Paper or card props and decorations
An increasing number of Halloween decorations are made from a paper or card-like materials. Those made of tissue or crepe paper (e.g. paper lanterns) can’t be recycled in your kerbside collection. Paper and cardboard items containing a mixture of materials cannot be recycled via kerbside collections, for example cardboard bunting which contains; cardboard triangles, string or ribbon, glue and staples. These items should be disposed of in your general waste bin unless you are prepared to spend time carefully separating out the recyclable and non recyclable components yourself. Keep an eye open for metalised plastic film which look like shiny paper or foil. This thin plastic material isn’t recyclable either. You’ll be able to identify it by doing a scrunch test. Paper will scrunch into a tight ball and remain scrunched. Metalised plastic will not remain scrunched in a tight ball but will open straight out again.
Balloons of any sort aren’t recyclable as part of your kerbside collection and should be disposed of in the general waste bin.
Dealing with home made decorations and costumes
Dealing with your home made creations when they have reached the end of their life deserves a bit of thought as it can be challenging, particularly if your creation consists of different materials glued, stuck or sewn together. If you are keen to recycle as much as you can, start by separating out the different types of materials and assessing the recyclability of each component individually. Items covered in paint, glue, sticky tape or glitter are not recyclable and should be disposed of in the general waste bin. Check the list of what items are accepted in your kerbside recycling.