What’s the scariest part about Halloween? The ghoulish costumes? The frightening films? The impending sugar crash? For us – it’s the waste.

At Halloween, everything seems to be covered in single-use plastic – from bite-sized chocolate bars to throwaway costumes. And this puts the ocean at risk.

Plastic that is not recycled or disposed of properly ends up in waterways. And sadly, plastic can cause grave injury, malnutrition or death to ocean animals who ingest it, thinking it is food. Ocean animals like whales, sea lions and birds can also get tangled in plastic and suffocate.

What’s more, once plastic is in the ocean it breaks apart into smaller-and-smaller pieces – something scientists call microplastics. We now know the ocean is drowning in microplastics. Scientists have shown that microplastic particles now cover the ocean floor, from pole to pole.

So how can you make this Halloween less plastic and more fantastic? From costumes to decorations, Ocean Wise’s Plastic Free Oceans team share their top tips for an ‘ocean wise’ Halloween….

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Costumes

The problem is that most costumes are designed to be worn once and then thrown away. Worse still, they are all to often made from synthetic materials (like polyester, acrylic and nylon) that release plastic fibers into the environment. Ocean Wise recommends:

  • Re-purpose an old costume, or make your costume from old clothes. It is amazing what you can find at the back of your closet that can be altered or repurposed with a little imagination.
  • Hold a costume swap with friends. Swapping Halloween costumes with friends is a great way to reduce waste and save money. Afterall, what are friends for?
  • Check out your local thrift shop. Raided all possible closets in your household and still no joy? Venture down to your local thrift shop. Some of our favourite costumes have been vintage finds coupled with creative make-up.
  • Still buying a new costume? If all else fails and you chose to buy a new costume, look for something you would wear again and that is made from natural fibers. Avoid glitter: sparkles are fun, but these tiny bits of plastic escape into waterways leading many scientists to call for a full-blown glitter ban.

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Decorations & Hosting

Whether you are hosting a Halloween gathering (small and COVID-safe, of course) or decorating your home in anticipation of little trick-or-treaters, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Re-usable, re-used and natural décor: Choose decorations that you can re-use year-after-year. Or opt for natural décor (think pumpkins and autumn leaves). Get crafty using recycled household items to make decorations the kids will love (hello toilet-roll mummies).
  • Be careful with helium balloons. If they escape they can land anywhere – including in the ocean. Marine animals die every year from ingesting balloons thinking they are food.
  • Avoid disposable cutlery and serve ware. Single use options are often difficult to recycle and unsuitable for composting.

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For Treats

It simply would not be Halloween without a sweet fix. Chew on this when planning your Halloween menu:

  • Home made goodies: Home made treats, rather than individually wrapped ones, are the easiest way to reduce packaging waste. There are a wealth of recipes to try and your creations can be packaged in reusable bags, jars, or paper wrapping.
  • Buy bulk: Head to the bulk isle in your local supermarket to get your sweet fix without the packaging.
  • Think Recycling: When planning beverages, note that aluminum cans of pop or juice are most commonly recyclable.
  • Cardboard over plastic: Still need prepacked sweets? Look out for candy options boxed in cardboard (like Smarties), or sweet treats wrapped in foil. These wrappers stand a slightly better chance of being recycled (depending on your local facilities and the level of contamination).

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For Trick-or-Treating

  • Lighting your path: Use flashlights (or a bike light) rather than one-time-use glow sticks to light up the streets and your kids.
  • Goodie bags: Instead of buying another single use bag for collecting candy, encourage your kids to repurposing that stash of reusable bags, or go old school and carry a pillowcase. Decorating your bags can be a ton of fun, but please avoid the glitter.

Don’t be scared. Protecting the ocean from plastic waste is not about a few people doing zero waste perfectly. It’s about everyone making ocean wise decisions when they can. Just remember: the decisions you make – at Halloween and any time of year – can have a positive impact for our planet.

Happy Halloween!

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