Tricks for Avoiding Halloween Trash

By Kathleen Carson

Just give money.

That's what my dad always said, when asked to find a solution for anything. And it seems like an especially good idea for Halloween, a night when plastic pollution can really sneak up on you. There is the additional horror of everything being in bite-sized, individually-wrapped plastic packaging that makes Halloween among the most frightening holidays when it comes to the damage it can inflict on the environment.

According to the EPA, over 30 percent of municipal solid waste in the U.S. comes in the form of packaging, including the fun-size candy wrappers marketed for Halloween treats. Many candy wrappers are not easily recyclable because they’re made of mixed materials, including polypropylene, aluminum foil and paper. Until recently, the recycling company TerraCycle ran the popular Candy Wrapper Brigade program in which they paid you to ship them your Halloween trash, but this year, their website says the program is closed. An email inquiry did not receive a reply. 

Related: Halloween's Scary Reliance on Plastic
Infographic: Scary Stuff: Ghosts, Ghouls and Halloween Debris

We've received many inquiries about plastic-free Halloween treats, and frankly, this is a tricky one. It's as if the entire holiday is designed to wreck the environment, between those little candy wrappers, plastic spider webbing strung up in doorways and under eaves that entrap owls and squirrels, and disposable dime-store costumes for your kid and your dog that will be worn once. Why not dress your children up as your favorite presidential candidates instead? There are plenty to choose from this go-around. 

Meanwhile, check with your local recycling plant to see if they will accept your empty Hershey's Kisses foil wrappers with those little wisps of paper in them. Otherwise, like I said, just put out a big bowl of pennies with some dimes and quarters mixed in that you have been tossing in a jar all year, and tell kids to close their eyes and grab a handful. You can feel good about not poisoning them with more sugar, and helping them pay for college.

And don't forget to compost your Jack-O-Lantern.

This is what a gown made of 600 peanut M & M wrappers looks like. But most Halloween trash is not this pretty. Source: Terracycle.

Top photo: Makena G / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND