The most horrifying thing about Halloween shouldn’t be the waste
Every Halloween we send thousands of tonnes of waste to the landfills, but a switch to more sustainable choices could curb the costs for our environment
With all the candy, costumes, and eerie celebrations, there’s no doubt that Halloween is one of Canada’s most loved holidays. In fact, we splurge over a billion dollars on all the tricks and treats of the season to make each 31st a night to remember.
But after those few hours of terrifying thrills, we’re met with the most menacing monster of them all – the waste. And although Halloween comes and goes each year, this plastic-filled celebration produces concerning amounts of trash that stay with us long after.
Harmful plastic waste is increasingly found in almost all types of Halloween products – candy, costumes, decorations, and more – and these products are not good for people or the planet.
Most Halloween products are composed of non-recyclable oil-based plastics such as PVC, making these single-use items destined for the landfill. What’s more is that PVC plastics often contain toxic chemicals and heavy metals such as BPAS and lead which are linked to chronic diseases like cancer, asthma and diabetes as well as consequences for reproductive, behavioral, and metabolic health.
A report from the U.K. found that 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste, equivalent to 83 million plastic bottles, were produced by Halloween festivities in 2019. While these numbers aren’t representative of Canada, they’re still a reminder of our ghastly overconsumption and waste as we send over 2.1 million tonnes of plastic waste to landfills all year round. And this waste is responsible for killing wildlife, polluting our air and water, and further accelerating the climate crisis.
Besides plastics, another concerning source of waste during Halloween is pumpkins. Over 80 thousand metric tonnes of pumpkins are produced annually in Canada. Yet, most of these pumpkins end up in the trash after they’re carved out for Jack-O’Lantern season, contributing to significant food waste. The amount of food wasted during Halloween is even more alarming when you think about the hot meals that could’ve instead been served to the one in five Canadians going hungry.
Sure, you could opt for more sustainable treats such as homemade goodies, buy chocolate and candy in bulk, and compost or cook your pumpkins. You could even DIY or thrift second-hand costumes and avoid plastic décor and products. However, these solutions aren’t always accessible or affordable for everyone. These alternatives, while necessary, also don’t address the root of this wider issue.
There need to be greater efforts from the big players involved in selling us these destructive tricks and treats because the companies preventing us from celebrating a plastic-free Halloween are the same companies heavily contributing to the pollution degrading the environment.
Though the federal government has pledged to eliminate plastic waste by 2030, Halloween won’t look much different then, given our current rate of progress. To stay true to their commitments, the federal government needs to implement a more comprehensive nationwide single-use plastic ban along with strategies for reusable and refillable items.
Halloween, however, is not the sole culprit for the waste in our landfills. We need to be considerate of the fact that disposable plastics and plastics, in general, are abundant in our everyday lives. And the only way to avoid our scary future is by actively working toward individual and system-level changes that prioritize sustainability now.