Halloween is a time for spooky fun and trick-or-treating (mostly treating let's admit). But there’s a dark undertone to the 31st of October
In 2019, it was estimated that 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste – equivalent to 83m bottles – would be generated from throwaway Halloween clothing sold by leading retailers in the UK (FairLandTrust research). While we might not be as die-hard Halloween fans in Singapore, globally, this festivity is the source of much waste. The U.S. - by far the biggest spender on Halloween - was estimated to reach a budget of $7.4 billion in 2014 between costumes, decorations, candy and other holiday merchandise (survey conducted by the National Retail Federation). The majority of participants said they planned to buy costumes (rather than make) and would spend more than $350 million dollars total on costumes for their pets. Well, lucky for us, our cat is black so we're kinda covered there.
Here are a few tips to help you cut down on waste if you are going to visit the dark side this year. And if you're not celebrating, scroll down to read which local celebration has an equally terrible side to it - all because of cakes no one wants.
🎃 An estimated 8 million pumpkins are sent to landfill in the UK each year
The season's most iconic vegetable whose expressive designs fill the streets of many European and American homes with some fiery character would have a lot to frown about if could tell its story. Not really a Singaporean National sport, but nonetheless, they're not always responsibly used and their nutritious insides are more often than not discarded in the kitchen bin rather than rescued for making pumpkin pie. According to Unilever 64% of people in the UK don’t use the inside of their pumpkins! Every year, 10 million pumpkins are grown in the UK of which, 95% are used at Halloween and then thrown away - creating 18,000 tonnes of food waste. Check out how much yue bing we waste in SEA... (keep reading).
The barePack advice?
Well, eat it of course! It's ridiculously versatile too, from savoury pumpkin soup to sweet gluten-free pumpkin pie and vegan pumpkin cupcakes with maple frosting, there is NO WAY you won't find something for you. If anything, you should then treat your dog on Halloween with some home-made peanut butter and pumpkin treats.
🔋 99% of batteries aren’t recycled properly, if at all
If you have your sights on some spooky festive lights, you'll notice they are likely battery operated and unfortunately, come 1st November, they’re often discarded with other household waste, without separating the batteries. 99% of those batteries to be more exact!
The barePack advice?
Use real candles instead of battery operated lights, or buy lanterns you can plug or remove the batteries of and use reusable batteries. In Singapore we can bring them to e-waste bins as provided by the NEA's website here.
🕷️ Plastics are not all recyclable-worthy....
All the Halloween paraphernalia is almost always made from plastic. From broomsticks to pet spiders and glowing skulls, they're light, cheap and part of the fun of trick-or-treating and home decorating. Cheap, (see below on the problem with cheap c***), they sometimes last just long enough to celebrate and then get thrown away. Yes, we can, in theory, recycle plastics, but as with everything there needs to be a demand and the infrastructure to recycle specific types. Plastics of certain colour or whose parts are glued to other types of plastics cannot be recycled even if they were disposed of in the recycling bin, due to the varying processes for those plastics - they cannot all be thrown into the same plastic recycling process.
The barePack advice?
Skip the overly-marketed plastic Halloween aisles, and buy decorations that won't break down after a few nights of use. Keep a box for festive decorations you can reopen year after year. They're bound to feel new after 365 days or so locked away, your kids might have even forgotten them. Consider swapping with the neighbours if that's their thing too!
🧛 UK: 12,500 tons of Halloween costumes get sent to landfill each year
Witches' capes and other cheap costumes invade supermarkets as early as September... But cheap often means we see no value in the hassle of keeping them after the last day of October, and as such they end up being just one of the estimated 12,500 tons of Halloween costumes that go to landfill each year.
The barePack advice:
Make your own up-cycling clothes you no longer wear; grab your loo roll cores, scissors, old rags and broom and make a DIY costume that will stand out, save you some dollars all while avoiding creating new waste. Our founding lady Roxane was a witch or a witch's cat every single year and didn't die but if repeating outfits is out of the question, ask your neighbours and local parents group for costume swaps: can't find a swap group? Create one in time for next year and promise to swap with each other!
There are also places you could consider donating Halloween costumes to:
Local theatre programs
Children’s hospitals. Sure you might use them again or hand-them-down, but these kids could sure use them for festivities
Daycares, where kids can play dress up all year round
If you're not celebrating Halloween, there is still something to consider given that most seasonal festivities face similar waste issues. In Asia for instance, we give desserts that no one wants. A study last year by Hong Kong environmental group Food Grace, a non-profit green group, revealed that over half of the Hong Kong business and households would rather not receive mooncakes during next month’s Mid-Autumn Festival. In 2018, 2.2 million mooncakes filled their landfill, a phenomenon observed across South-East Asia.
Remember, the cost of something is not its real cost to our environment. Everything, even free and gifted, costs the planet resources to make... and to dispose of.