Don’t let the spectre of waste haunt your Halloween!
The leaves are falling, there’s a chill in the air and we’re all starting to think about the festivities that keep us cheerful as the nights grow darker.
From its origins as a Celtic festival meant to scare away evil spirits, Halloween has grown into a celebration for people of all ages, with parties, dressing up, pumpkin carving and ‘trick or treat’ expeditions. Fun for everyone – but what about the aftermath?
The statistics are truly scary: around 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin and seven million Halloween costumes are thrown away every year. Then there are the masses of toys and decorations; everything from fake fangs to plastic skeletons, severed fingers and stick-on warts, most not recyclable, used for one night only and then discarded.
So, what can we do to make sure that our Halloween hijinks don’t leave behind an unwanted legacy?
Make the most of your pumpkin
Individually carved pumpkin lanterns light up the darkness in a wide range of styles, from the traditional triangular eyes and jagged-toothed grin to intricate designs and almost photographic scenes painstakingly etched into the rind.
It would be a shame to stifle such creativity – but we can cut down on waste by using the flesh to make Halloween delicacies such as pumpkin pie, risotto, soup or even pumpkin-flavoured, spiced mulled wine. Even the seeds can be boiled in salted water, drained and spread on a baking sheet to be cooked in the oven, making a tasty snack to enjoy with drinks.
When your lantern has started to wilt, remove the candle or night light inside, chop it up and pop it in your food recycling collection if you have one, if not add it to your own compost bin.
Get creative with costumes
Costumes, once the preserve of trick or treating children, are now worn by adults of all ages – and even pets. This can prove expensive, and the materials used are often not recyclable.
It’s worth looking at what you’ve already got that can be adapted – for instance, a black jumper and tights can form the basis of a cute cat costume with the addition of black painted or crayoned paper ears attached to an Alice band, a tail made from a stocking (or one leg of a pair of tights) stuffed with newspaper and face-painted nose and whiskers.
If adapting or making your own costume isn’t for you, consider buying from a charity shop (and donating back afterwards) or swapping costumes with friends or on a website such as Freecycle.
Not all treats are sweets!
Most of the ‘treats’ collected by children as they go from house to house are commercially produced sweets and snacks, many individually wrapped in non-recyclable plastic.
However, Trick or Treating is exciting for children for a variety of reasons, not all of which are connected with collecting piles of sweets! The pleasures of dressing up, meeting friends and walking around after dark (suitably supervised) won’t be dimmed by the substitution of some home-made goodies.
Satsumas can have scary faces drawn on in black felt pen or be turned into ‘spiders’ by using a knife to cut ‘legs’ from the peel, leaving the top part attached and drawing eyes in the centre. Or you could make your own cookies, using Halloween cookie cutters and red, orange and black icing for the full effect!
Choose decorations with care
There are masses of Halloween decorations available in high street shops, supermarkets and online, many including batteries for light and sound effects.
Try to choose decorations that can be used more than once, and those made from recyclable materials such as paper or wood. For instance, a ceramic skull lantern can be brought out year after year. A string of paper ghosts can easily be recycled, whereas a plastic pumpkin garland can’t and will end up in the general waste bin. It’s also important to remember to separate batteries from any electrical toys and decorations and recycle them.
With a bit of thought, Halloween needn’t be an environmental nightmare!