Holiday periods are great for various reasons, but what affect do these times of the year have on our consumption patterns and how does this contribute to plastic and other waste?

Where Halloween Began

Halloween is celebrated on the 31st October each year, with the holiday itself originating from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain.

Samhain (a Gaelic word pronounced sow-win) is a Pagan religious festival celebrated between 31st October to November 1st to welcome in the “dark half of the year”.

Those who celebrate Samhain believe the barriers between the physical and spirit worlds break down, allowing interactions between humans and Denizens of the Otherworld.

During this period, people would traditionally light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.

In the 8th Century, November 1st was designated All Saints Day (as a time to honour all Saints) by Pope Gregory III, with the evening prior being known as All Hallows Eve.

All Hallows Eve evolved into Halloween, which later became about activities such as trick-or-treating, carving pumpkin lanterns, getting dressed up in festive attire and eating treats such as chocolate and sweets.

Rise in Spend on Halloween

Halloween, over time, has become one of the more popular holidays in the U.K. and America.

According to market research analysts Mintel, in 2017 alone, £320 million was spent on Halloween. This is a substantial growth from years prior, where a YouGov poll states spend on Halloween products in the U.K. in 2001 stood at £12 million.

In America however, the spend is substantially higher. In 2017, reaching $9 billion (£7.03 billion).

This rise in spend is attributed to Millennials (born between 1981 – 1996) getting older and wealthier, with this demographic in 2016 accounting for 60% of Halloween spend; therefore, as they continue to get older and wealthier, the spend is increasing inline.

Waste Produced by Halloween 

Lady with pumpkin


In 2018 it was said that the U.K. will have binned 8 million pumpkins (around 8000 tonnes) following Halloween, with this being the equivalent to feed the entire nation pumpkin pie.

According to research in the Guardian, 58% of consumers buy Pumpkins to hollow out and carve with only a third of these eating the leftover but edible innards.

More than 51% of these are said to bin the flesh, rather than eating or composting it, which contributes greatly to the U.K.’s growing food waste.

Hard to Recycle Plastics

As part of costumes people will use items such as plastic broomsticks, a wide variety of “scary” masks, false teeth, contact lenses, fake blood which comes housed in little plastic bottles, among many other things.

These items are typically only ever used once before being discarded of, ending up in landfills or the ocean, before taking hundreds of years to break down.

Halloween Costumes

Halloween make up

As Halloween has evolved, it is now a holiday to be celebrated by adults as well as children with it being common for adults to dress up in fancy dress.

Typically, costumes are bought, worn once and thrown away with it being said that seven million costumes are thrown away each year.

This contributes to the growing trend of “throw away fashion” which accounts for 300,000 tonnes of textiles (worth £12.5 billion) being thrown away each year in the U.K., ending up in landfill.

As textiles degrade in landfill, they release a greenhouse gas, methane. It is said that 5% of the U.K.’s total carbon and water footprint comes from clothing consumption.

Five Tips to Cut Down on Waste at Halloween

Use old clothes for costumes

Rather than purchasing brand new clothes which are likely to never be worn again, re-use those old clothes which sit rotting away in the wardrobe.

There is a wide array of blog sites and social channels on Pinterest and YouTube for example which offer content around crafting your own home made Halloween costumes.

Offer plastic free sweets and treats to trick or treaters

As people become more conscious of their plastic consumption, more brands are catering to this trend by providing plastic free options.

Source plastic free alternatives such as sweets and treats which are not individually wrapped in plastic wrappers and that come housed in glass jars or boxes made of card for example.

Do away with single use plastic props

Rather than purchasing a plastic broomstick or false teeth, get creative and make your own from items which can be found around the house or in the garden.

Particularly for children, this only adds extra fun to the Halloween experience.

Make the most of your pumpkins

Pumpkins contain a number of health benefits such as being packed full of antioxidants which reduce inflammation and wrinkles, are ram packed full of vitamin A which is good for your skin, bones, teeth and vision; also containing a lot of potassium which is great for recovery after a workout.

There are a number of ways which pumpkin can be used to its full potential, over a decorative Halloween piece alone:

• Use softened pumpkin to make a healthy vegan sauce in place of traditional cheese sauces.

• Roast your pumpkin seeds as these are packed full of zinc, vitamin E and fibre.

• If you prefer, you can also plant the seeds to grow your own pumpkins for next year.

• If you are not a fan of pumpkin, feed the birds and any other wildlife which may come into your back garden.

• Compost your leftover pumpkin!

Recycle, recycle, recycle.

If you do decide to purchase Halloween costumes, then seek plastic which is easy to recycle or bio-degradable plastics. We cover these in this blog post How to Reduce Plastic Waste at Home.

Recycle any clothes which you do not plan to wear again. They do not always need to be in a condition where they can be worn as old clothes and textiles can be made into new items, such as padding for chairs and car seats, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets.

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