TRAID’s CEO and parent, Maria Chenoweth laments the terrible environmental impacts of Halloween – from single use garments to food waste – and argues we should ghost it immediately.
With around 7 million Halloween costumes dumped in landfill in 2020 – equivalent to around 12,500 tonnes of waste and 118,750 tonnes of unnecessary carbon emissions – we have to question the scary environmental impacts of Halloween!
It’s not just single garments, according to the environmental charity Hubbub UK, 82.5% of the materials found in Halloween costumes are plastic. It is estimated that the annual plastic waste generated by single use Halloween costumes is the equivalent to around 83 million water bottles.
While the tradition of going door to door in costume – ‘guising’ – originated with the ancient Celts as a way to ward off evil spirits, today’s ‘trick or treating’ is a distinctly American import involving an evening tramping around the streets with a bucket to gorge on sweets from stranger’s doors! At Halloween, Americans spent around $2.6 billion on sweets alone! Sugar is terrible for our health – from tooth decay to diabetes – and what about the rubbish generated!?
And what about the food waste? Around 95% of the 10 million pumpkins grown in the UK are used at Halloween and then chucked away creating 18,000 tonnes of food waste. According to the US department of energy, rotting pumpkins that end up in landfill eventually emit methane, a greenhouse gas with more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.
As a parent of three boys, I am well aware that the pressure on us is huge. Halloween is yet another festival of peak consumption, carefully crafted by the crafty marketeers, who target children to desire and demand more and more things – aptly called the nag factor – in order to make profits.
There are of course less bad ways of doing Halloween. Don’t buy single use costumes. Go second-hand (TRAID’s mantra of course). Make your own. Don’t contribute to Halloween’s waste mountain. But, on this occasion, I think the only sustainable thing to do is to just not participate in this one night of excess. Better surely for this lovely earth and our children’s future planet?