Have you experienced extra strain carrying your Halloween pumpkin to your car from the supermarket this year? The good news is that there’s nothing to be scared about and you’re not getting weaker – it’s the pumpkins that are getting bigger this year.

Farmers have commented that the wet July and August (with enough sunny intervals) has seen pumpkin crops thrive[1]. A warm September and early October helped ripen the fruits at the right time too[2]. With between 10 and 15 million pumpkins grown and harvested in the UK every year that means most pumpkins sold are bigger and heavier than usual.

You might get more pumpkin for your pound thanks to the miserable summer, but experts at Business Waste are worried it will lead to more pumpkins being wasted. Already around 24 million pumpkins are sold in the UK every year to celebrate Halloween with 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins thrown away that end up in landfill.

“More than half of Brits who buy pumpkins once a year just to make a jack-o’-lantern aren’t aware that they can eat and use the fruit,” says Mark Hall, representative for waste management company Business Waste. “Instead, they scoop out the insides and chuck it straight in the bin, meaning thousands of tonnes of edible pumpkins go to waste. It’s a real shame, especially with the millions of homes in the UK currently experiencing food insecurity.”

giant pumpkins on sale in a supermarket.

How much extra waste food 
will bigger pumpkins create?

There are no exact figures about how much bigger pumpkins are compared to last year. However, as 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins are thrown out normally in a year, even a 1% increase in size could lead to significant amounts of extra waste:

  • 1% increase in pumpkin size – 180 extra tons – the weight of 30 elephants
  • 5% increase in pumpkin size – 900 extra tons – the weight of 150 elephants
  • 10% increase in pumpkin size – 1,800 extra tons – the weight of 300 elephants

The average pumpkin that you buy in the supermarket has a diameter of 15 to 25cm and weighs between 2 and 3kg[3]. Medium pumpkins range in size from 60 to 80cm in diameter and can weigh as much as 9kg.

The bigger the pumpkin size you normally buy, the larger it will likely be this year, and the more food waste it will create if disposed of irresponsibly. Unless more consumers eat or use the pumpkin flesh then those buying bigger pumpkins for their porch could create more avoidable food waste in the UK.

“Unfortunately, more food often leads to more waste,” adds Hall. “We encourage people to only buy the number and sizes of pumpkins they need. You should also plan how you’re going to use all of the pumpkin and manage it properly, as after carving a pumpkin it only lasts for 3 days to a week before it starts to rot.”

Discover what to do with pumpkins after Halloween
pumpkins of all sizes on a bale of hay.

Could pumpkin waste plummet?

The good news is that last year Tesco reported ten times more people searched for pumpkin recipes on their website than the year before1. Hopefully this suggests more people will be eating the innards of their jack-o-lanterns in 2023 than ever before.

There’s also a growing awareness of the impact of food waste and many recipes and tips out there to help people make the most of their pumpkins. The current cost of living crisis could also encourage more people to think twice and consider cooking and eating them rather than heading straight for the bin. After all, pumpkins are edible fruits.

“There are loads of great ways to eat the innards and flesh of pumpkins,” concludes Hall. “These include traditional sweet and savoury recipes such as pumpkin pie and soups, as well as simply roasting the seeds or blending the flesh to create a homemade pumpkin spiced latte.”

Discover tips to have a low waste Halloween

Read our latest news

Business waste logo and photo of a bin

Sustainable Company

The study participants included business owners and company employees, revealing unexpected findings about corporate environmental practices.

Millions of pumpkins are grown, harvested, bought, carved, and thrown away at Halloween every year in the UK. It adds to the scary amount of food waste we already create. But there are all sorts of things to do with pumpkins after Halloween to avoid creating more food waste and adding to landfill levels.

Understanding how to dispose of pumpkins after Halloween helps households and businesses use carved and old pumpkins in a more sustainable way. Simply using the innards of a pumpkin in recipes when carving a pumpkin is a good start – yet more than half of all Brits aren’t aware that pumpkins are edible!

Scooping out the insides of a pumpkin and using them to cook up a soup is one of the best things to do before you start carving your jack-o’-lantern. There are other options for making the most of pumpkins in October before they start to rot. Discover what to do with old pumpkins after Halloween with these ideas.

old halloween pumpkin starting to rot on grass.

Facts about Halloween pumpkin waste

A few frightening facts and stats about pumpkin waste at Halloween are that:

  • Between 17 and 24 million pumpkins are bought each year in the UK to celebrate Halloween.
  • The good news is most are locally sourced, as between 10 and 15 million pumpkins are grown and harvested in the UK annually.
  • However, it’s estimated around 13 million pumpkins are wasted – carved up then thrown away with household waste.
  • This works out at about 18,000 tons of Halloween pumpkin waste that ends up in landfill.
  • The costs of our Halloween habit are haunting, as Brits spend close to £29 million on pumpkins every year.
  • When Pumpkins sit in landfill they release methane gas – a harmful greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.
  • It can take a pumpkin more than 20 years to decompose in landfill – compared to eight to 12 weeks in compost to completely break down if chopped up.
Discover more Halloween waste facts

How long do Halloween pumpkins last?

Carved Halloween pumpkins may last for up to five days. In particularly cold areas they might last for up to two weeks before they start to wilt. If you leave an uncarved pumpkin on your porch out of the sun and avoid freezing conditions, it can last for two to three months.

You can extend the life of a pumpkin at Halloween by decorating it with a black marker pen, googly eyes, paper or cardboard – rather than carving into it. If you want to carve it, avoid cutting off the top, as removing the stem shortens the life of any fruit or vegetable. Cut into the back or bottom instead.

Are Halloween pumpkins edible?

Yes, all varieties of pumpkins are edible. You can eat carving pumpkins in the UK, but they’re often a bit waterier and stringier than the types grown for eating. Still, you can eat them – just keep the pumpkin cool, check for any bugs, and ideally use it within 24 hours of carving it.

One of the best things to do with pumpkins after Halloween is using the innards and flesh in seasonal recipes. After carving out the insides of a pumpkin, use this bit of the fruit soon after in your baking or store in the fridge for later. A few pumpkin recipe ideas to use as much of the fruit as possible include:

  • Pumpkin soup – an autumnal classic, simply boil the flesh with stock and seasoning, then put it in a blender.
  • Pumpkin cake – follow a traditional carrot cake recipe but switch out carrot for pumpkin or follow a recipe for the similar pumpkin loaf.
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds – scoop out the seeds, dry them off, and coat in your chosen seasoning (salt, chili powder, or herbs for a savoury snack – cinnamon and sugar for something sweet).
  • Pumpkin pie – this American fall favourite uses a shortcrust pastry tart case, plenty of sugar, milk, and butter for a tasty treat.
  • Pumpkin spiced latte – blend pumpkin flesh to create a puree, then whizz this up with coffee, milk, cinnamon, and maple syrup for a homemade pumpkin spiced latte.
bowl of pumpkin soup with slice of brown bread.

What to do with carved pumpkins after Halloween

Most people buy pumpkins to transform into jack-o’-lanterns by carving into its orange flesh. This creates a creepy effect but does mean it won’t last very long and you’re left with an awkward shape and amount of pumpkin. Whatever you do though, don’t throw it in your household or business’ general waste bin to prevent it going to landfill.

As mentioned, one of the best things to do with pumpkins after Halloween is to eat as much as possible. However, if you carved into it a few days ago or have already used the edible parts in a few recipes, you might wonder how to dispose of the rest of it. Here are some ideas for what you can do with old carved pumpkins:

  • Chop up and compost – there’s lots of water in pumpkins so they decompose quickly. Cut them up into smaller chunks and they can break down in as little as eight weeks. Remove the seeds before adding to your compost pile, so they don’t root.
  • Bury in soil – if you don’t have a compost bin you can still cut up an old pumpkin, remove its seeds, and bury it directly in your garden. It will break down and provide nutrients for other plants.
  • Plant the seeds – take out the seeds and rinse any pulp off, then store in a cool dry place (your fridge or a dark cupboard). Pick out the biggest ones and plant them in April, so they should be fully grown into pumpkins by October.
  • Make DIY jewellery – if you want to do something with the seeds now, use them to make a necklace or bracelet. Wash and dry the seeds, colour them with pens or paint, then make a hole through each with a needle and thread through some fine elastic.
  • Turn it into a plant pot – transform a carved pumpkin into a short-term plant pot by filling with florists’ foam or soil (make sure to block up any carved-out bits first so it doesn’t fall out the side). Then pop in your flowers or plants. Try to use plants that prefer shade, as keeping the pumpkin in sunlight will speed up its rotting.
  • Dispose of it with food waste – if your old carved Halloween pumpkin has reached the end of its life (starting to physically decompose and smell), dispose of it in a food waste bin. This should ensure it’s sent for anaerobic digestion to generate energy – rather than rotting in landfill and adding to greenhouse gas emissions.

What to do with pumpkins after Halloween for animals

It’s not just humans who can eat waste Halloween pumpkins, they’re also safe and healthy to eat for all sorts of animals. Before feeding one to Fido (or any other wildlife), make sure you remove any paint, ink, or other decorations that could cause illness. Otherwise, there are a few things you can do with pumpkins after Halloween for animals:

  • Make a bird feeder – cut the top off your old pumpkin to create a bowl shape and fill with bird seed. Then hang it up in your garden with some strong string or wiring, and check it holds.
  • Pass on to your pets – pumpkins are safe for domesticated animals and they’re full of goodness too. Packed with vitamins and fibre makes them great for digestion for dogs and cats. If your pets are fussy, try blending it into a puree and adding to their regular food.
  • Donate your old pumpkin – local animal shelters, farms, and zoos may accept your old pumpkins to use as animal feed.
dog sat in pumpkin patch.

Which bin do pumpkins go in?

When it’s time to throw your old pumpkin away, don’t put it in the same bin as your household rubbish or general waste at work. This will likely result in it making its way to landfill and adding to increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Instead, to dispose of pumpkins after Halloween use a food waste bin.

Putting old pumpkins in a food waste bin ensures they’re disposed of properly alongside other types of food waste. Often, it’ll go for anaerobic digestion, which uses pumpkins and other food waste to generate energy – a much greener option.

Looking for more tips to reduce your waste around spooky season?

Learn how to have a low waste Halloween

Transforming your home or office into a haunted house means putting up terrifying decorations to get into the spooky spirit. Every year in the UK we spend more than £600 million celebrating Halloween – covering the cost of costumes, décor, food, and drinks. Halloween decorations make up a significant chunk of this amount.

While figures for the UK are currently scarce, trends from the other side of the pond are slowly creeping into our culture. In the USA, 67% of people put up Halloween decorations inside their home, while 61% decorate their gardens and yards. That’s a huge amount of Halloween decorations on display, but what happens to them come November?

A scary amount are thrown away and end up in landfill, but this shouldn’t be the case. Discover what to do with your Halloween decorations to cut down on waste.

Explore our Halloween waste hub
plastic halloween decorations gravestone and pumpkin.

What’s wrong with plastic Halloween decorations?

Many of the Halloween decorations sold in supermarkets are made from plastic or include a type of plastic in their materials. There’s nothing wrong with hanging up plastic lanterns in your home, blowing up an inflatable giant skeleton or putting up fake plastic gravestones in your garden. It’s what you do after taking them down that can cause problems.

Throwing away your old Halloween decorations in your household or general waste bin means it’ll end up in landfill or be sent for incineration. Any plastic waste that ends up in landfill takes tens, hundreds, or thousands of years to decompose. Halloween decorations made from metal, wood, and other materials take longer than normal to break down.

As the decorations sit in landfill the chemicals contained in the plastic can leach potentially toxic substances into the ground, water, and air. This has a negative effect on the ecosystem and adds to pollution levels – as landfills release large amounts of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

Some plastic waste, including your old Halloween decorations, may be processed in incinerators to generate energy, rather than heading to landfill. While this avoids contributing to landfill levels, burning plastic releases toxic gases, heavy metals, and particles into the air – still adding to air pollution and having a negative environmental effect.

Learn about plastic recycling

What to do with old Halloween decorations

Where possible avoid throwing your old Halloween decorations away with your general waste. Rather than sending them to landfill or for incineration, there are more sustainable options once October is over. These are three main things you can do whatever materials your old Halloween decorations are made from:

  • Put them in storage – Halloween decorations don’t go out of date or deteriorate over time. Store them in a cupboard at home or work so you can bring them out next year to use again, saving money, time, and energy.
  • Donate or sell them – if you don’t have storage space or won’t reuse your decorations, donate them to a local charity shop, friends, or family. Alternatively, sell them online or even offer them for free on places like Facebook Marketplace and Gumtree.
  • Recycle your decorations – check the materials your decorations are made from and whether you can put them in your household recycling bin. If not, see if you can take them to a nearby recycling centre or arrange collection for recycling from your business.
halloween lights and ghost decorations inside home.

How to recycle Halloween decorations

If your Halloween decorations get broken or damaged beyond repair, you might have no option but to throw them out. Thankfully, many can be recycled rather than sent to landfill. Find out how to recycle different Halloween decorations based on their materials.

Halloween light strings and lanterns

Any frightening fairy lights or plastic lanterns hung up in your garden or home can be recycled in two parts if they’ve stopped working. Remove the bulbs and recycle these alongside other energy-saving light bulbs – with a dedicated bin or at a recycling centre. You cannot recycle the bulbs with glass recycling as they contain wires.

The wires, casing, and other parts of your Halloween light strings and lanterns should be recycled with any WEEE waste. This ensures the electrical parts are removed and different materials separated and recycled in their individual streams.

Halloween inflatables

Inflatable pumpkins, skeletons, and spiders provide an eerie effect in or outside your home or business. What’s even scarier is trying to recycle them. Most of these inflatables are made from nylon or vinyl and coated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These are all hard to recycle by themselves, let alone when combined.

Check the materials your inflatables are made from though, as some types of plastic are recyclable – so you might be able to recycle it in a plastic waste bin. Otherwise, donate or keep your inflatables. If it’s damaged, see if any local artists or schools can use the materials in their projects.

Plastic Halloween decorations

Check the type of plastic your Halloween decorations are made from to see if it’s recyclable. Many plastic types can now be recycled and if your decorations are made from just one type of plastic this should be possible. Ensure the decorations are clean and dry with no contaminants before you put them in a plastic recycling bin or your household recycling bin.

If your decorations light up or include other materials, then they’ll be harder to recycle. Anything with electrical parts should be recycled with WEEE waste. Otherwise, try and separate the plastic from other materials and place in the relevant bin for the likes of glass or metal recycling.

Glass, ceramic, and wooden Halloween decorations 

The good news is that glass is one of the easiest materials to recycle. You can normally recycle glass jars, bottles, and ornaments used to decorate your home or office for Halloween. Try and remove any paper or paint added to them if possible.

If you’ve put up wooden signs inside or outside, you might be able to recycle these with any other wood waste. However, any paint or varnish could mean they’ll be rejected, so it’s worth trying to remove this first. Unfortunately, ceramic isn’t recyclable. If you’ve got any broken ceramic Halloween figures or ornaments these need disposing of with general waste.

Ideas for making recycled Halloween decorations

Rather than buying new Halloween decorations every year, why not create your own from materials around your home or workplace? A few ideas to make recycled Halloween decorations include:

  • Ghastly ghost windsocks – paint an old tin can white or wrap it in white paper and add a pair of eyes and a mouth. Then attach some streams of toilet or other white paper and hang outside to blow about in the breeze.
  • Paper pumpkins – real pumpkins create lots of food waste every October, so consider making a recyclable one. Wrap a football in orange paper and use a black marker pen to draw on your jack-o’-lantern design, then recycle the paper later.
  • Menacing Mummy light jars – get a glass jar and pop in a tea light, then wrap the jar with white paper or fabric and add some eyes. Ensure there’s no risk of the light inside setting fire to the exterior. When it’s finished with, recycle the glass jar.
  • Petrifying plastic bottle plant pots – cut a two-litre plastic bottle in half and paint the outside with the face of a ghost, Frankenstein, witch, or any other Halloween character. Fill with soil and some herbs or another plant to give the effect of green hair.
  • Scary milk bottle skeletons – cut up your old white plastic milk bottles and arrange into a skeleton shape. Attach the ‘bones’ with bits of wire and hang up in or outside. You can always recycle the plastic milk bottles afterwards.
Find out how to have a low waste Halloween

The amount of extra food, plastic, and packaging waste households produce celebrating Halloween every year is well known. But businesses across the UK are just as responsible for generating lots more rubbish as spooky season starts. Having a sustainable plan in place to deal with and recycle commercial Halloween waste is vital for any organisation.

Think about how many shops, pubs, and offices are decorated in October – almost all of them. Businesses are a big contributor to the thousands of tons of excess waste Halloween generates every year in the UK. It means business owners are in a good position to help reduce and recycle Halloween waste though.

Explore ways to effectively manage and reduce the amount of waste your company produces this Halloween to save money and the environment with these tips.

Visit our Halloween waste hub
food shop window decorated for halloween.

Plan your company’s Halloween party perfectly

Workplace Halloween parties are a great socialising and teambuilding opportunity – at a good midpoint between summer and Christmas parties. Plenty of preparation will go into the venue, decorations, food, and entertainment. The more carefully you plan things, the easier it is to limit the waste your company’s Halloween party generates.

Order any food based on the number of attendees to minimise how much might be leftover and cut down on food waste. Use glasses for drinks and any plates and cutlery from your workplace kitchen, rather than disposable plastic cups and plates, to cut down on plastic waste.

Check if you or any employees already own Halloween decorations you can use rather than buying new ones. If not, consider making decorations from materials like paper and cardboard, which can be recycled easily afterwards. You could use such an activity as another teambuilding exercise.

champagne on ice with pumpkin.

Recycle your commercial Halloween waste

Hopefully your business already uses a variety of different bins to separate its waste types and send as much as possible for recycling. If you only run a small operation though, you might just have a dry mixed recycling bin that meets your daily recycling needs.

When it’s Halloween you may produce more and a wider variety of recyclable waste. Instead of chucking this in with your mixed recycling or general waste bin, using specific recycling bins for each waste stream should ensure as much as possible is recycled. Common items for your business to recycle around Halloween include:

  • Packaging waste – sweet wrappers and food packaging create lots of waste for businesses at Halloween, some of which may be recyclable.
  • Glass recycling – use a glass bin to recycle any empty, rinsed out glass beer, wine, and other bottles from your work Halloween party.
  • Plastic waste – many Halloween decorations are made from plastic and might be recyclable, while you can recycle most clean and empty plastic drinks bottles.
  • Paper recycling – paper decorations or sheets used for Halloween party games such as a quiz should be put in a paper recycling bin.
  • Cardboard recycling – cardboard decorations may include haunting Halloween signs, while cardboard packaging for deliveries of costumes, décor, and food should be recycled responsibly.

Increase bin collections

As your business may generate more waste celebrating Halloween, it only makes sense that you’ll need to get your bins collected more often. In preparation for producing more rubbish means you can order bigger bins to store it or arrange more frequent collections in October and early November to manage your waste effectively.

Work out what waste types and how much extra rubbish you might produce to avoid overfilling bins and being hit with overweight charges. Aside from recycling, your general waste output may increase and need managing too. Planning extra bin collections in advance avoids waste stacking up on your premises, which may cause safety, hygiene, and unsightly issues.

If you’re just having a Halloween party at work, you might only need to add an extra one-off collection to cover the excess waste created. Should you have a whole month of celebrations planned – including decorations, parties, and dress-up days – you may need to increase your bin collections for a few weeks.

Contact us to adapt your business waste collections for Halloween.

halloween gravestone decorations for sale in shop.

Bring in extra bin types

Alongside producing more general waste and recycling, your commercial Halloween celebrations can create specialist waste with which you don’t normally deal. You can use specialist bins that ensure such rubbish is disposed of safely, sustainably, and recycled where possible – rather than going to landfill.

Consider using specialist bins to store and dispose of other waste your business produces at Halloween for:

  • Food waste – if your business doesn’t normally serve food but will be at your Halloween party, use a food bin for any waste. This ensures it’s sent for anaerobic digestion and used to generate energy rather than rotting in landfill.
  • Battery bins – many Halloween decorations use batteries that can run out. Due to the chemicals they contain, disposing of them separately in a battery waste bin is the safe and responsible option.
  • WEEE waste – broken light strings and electronic decorations used by your business for Halloween should be disposed of with WEEE waste. This way they’re broken down into separate materials and as much as possible is recycled.
  • Lightbulbs – green, orange, and other coloured light bulbs add an eerie effect to your office, shop, or restaurant at Halloween. When any lightbulbs reach the end of their life you can’t throw them away with glass recycling due to their wires – instead arrange separate collection and recycling.

Reuse Halloween decorations

The easiest way for your business to go green this Halloween and significantly reduce how much waste you produce is to keep as much as possible. Store any Halloween decorations, costumes, tablecloths, themed plates, cutlery, and anything else for next year. This saves money as well as reducing waste.

Where cost cutting isn’t essential, consider letting your employees take home any Halloween decorations to use in their own homes. You could also donate any to local charity shops if your business doesn’t have space to store them for 12 months.

You can easily repurpose some decorations, such as using Halloween light strings to decorate your business at Christmas – as they’re essentially the same as fairy lights. Just remove any specific spooky references if there are any. Other ideas include transforming sheets, paper, and other white decorations into snowy décor. And there are ways to recycle Halloween decorations.

Learn how to have a low waste Halloween

Halloween plastic waste could be the scariest thing about the spooky holiday. Forget the creepy costumes, darker days, and petrifying pumpkins – the increased amount of plastic thrown into landfill around Halloween and its environmental effects are truly terrifying. Decomposing for hundreds of years, leaching chemicals, and releasing greenhouse gases is like something out of a Halloween horror film.

So, what can we do? The rise of plastic use and waste hasn’t gone unnoticed, and many businesses and individual are seeking plastic-free alternatives for their Halloween costumes, decorations, treat, and parties. Find out how much plastic waste we produce at Halloween and ways to cut down this year.

Explore all our Halloween waste guides
two plastic skeletons in Halloween house.

How much plastic waste does Halloween produce?

Halloween produces lots of plastic waste from costumes, decorations, and sweet wrappers. Some frightening facts include:

  • 83% of Halloween costumes and clothing are made from plastic.
  • Halloween costumes create 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste every year – similar to the weight of 18 blue whales.
  • Of these Halloween costumes, around 63% contain polyester.
  • Polyester can take between 20 and 200 years to decompose in landfill.
  • In the USA, 275 million kilograms of Halloween sweets are bought each year – creating mountains of plastic wrapper waste.

To help bring these numbers down there are various things you can do to reduce the plastic waste Halloween produces.

Avoid Halloween costumes containing plastic

Buying almost any type of Halloween costume from a supermarket or fancy dress shop will contain some level of plastic that’s tricky or hard to recycle – even when sent for textile recycling. This includes everything from accessories such as plastic Halloween masks to complete costumes. The packaging they’re sold in is also often made from plastic.

Simply avoid buying a new costume every year to cut back on your plastic use and waste.

A few alternatives include:

  • Hiring a fancy dress costume. Even if it contains plastic, at least it’ll be reused many times and not thrown away.
  • Reusing a costume you already own or borrowing one from a friend. Again, even if it uses plastic at least it won’t be thrown out.
  • Making your own Halloween costume from clothing items you have, so you can dismantle it and keep wearing them in the future.
Ideas to reduce Halloween costume waste

Put up plastic free Halloween decorations

Wander round your neighbourhood in October and you’ll likely see gardens full of gravestones, skeletons, bats, and more. What do they all have in common (aside from transforming suburban semi-detached homes into haunted houses)? They’re mostly made from plastic, used once, then chucked in the bin.

Thankfully, there are plenty of non-plastic Halloween decorations you can put up in and outside your home instead. These materials and decorations can then be reused, recycled, or kept for next year. A few ideas for plastic free Halloween decorations include:

  • Paper bats and spiders – use black paper or card and cut out spider and bat shapes. Hang them around your home or garden with some twine for a simple yet scary effect. Keep for next year or throw away with your paper or cardboard recycling.
  • String spider webs – tie up some string in a simple spider web style or use more black paper to cut one out and stick to your walls, like making paper snowflakes.
  • Scarecrow – stuff some old clothes with newspaper, which you can recycle afterwards, and blow up a balloon or use a football for a head to create a scarecrow. Sit it in a chair or wheelbarrow in your garden to creep out any trick-or-treaters.
  • Light jars – most Halloween lights are made of plastic. Instead, put a tea light in empty glass jars to form an eerie atmosphere (in or outside). You can always paint the jars if you want and when Halloween’s over, clean them out and recycle the glass.
  • Scary signs – if you’ve got some old wooden board or pieces of cardboard, use a red pen or paint to make your own signs with ‘keep out’, ‘turn back now’, and other slogans. Recycle the wood or cardboard once you’re done with them.

Plan a no plastic Halloween party

Throwing a Halloween party at home or work? This can create lots of plastic waste without careful planning. Choosing plastic free Halloween decorations and costumes is a good start, but you’ll also need to focus on the catering. A few considerations for a plastic free Halloween party are:

  • Cups and straws – plastic Halloween cups, straws, and wine glasses may be a convenient choice that fit the theme, but unless you wash and reuse them next year they’ll likely end up in landfill. Use your own glasses or opt for paper cups and straws if you must use disposable ones, as these are easier to clean and recycle.
  • Plates – Halloween plastic plates are also convenient and on theme, but hard to recycle. If you can’t use your own plates, try to offer food that doesn’t need plates or can be eaten from a paper napkin.
  • Tablecloth – many supermarkets sell Halloween plastic tablecloths but don’t get lured in. Instead, use your regular tablecloth but surround it with non-plastic Halloween decorations (after all, most of the table will be covered with plates and food that hide the tablecloth’s design anyway).

Give out plastic free Halloween treats

Sweet and treat wrappers are a real problem at Halloween as most of them are made from a combination of plastic and aluminium. These need separating to recycle each stream individually as plastic and metal waste. However, it’s often either impossible to separate the two or the costs and energy involved are so high that they end up in landfill.

Even Halloween sweet wrappers made from pure plastic might not be recycled if they’re too small to provide value or simply pass through the machines. Those coated in sticky substances and bits of food waste may also be diverted away from recycling to landfill.

The easiest thing to do is provide non-plastic Halloween treats to any trick-or-treaters. Buy sweets in bulk that come in cardboard boxes or glass jars with zero packaging to hand out loose sweets. Other ideas for plastic free Halloween treats include offering home baking, fruit, or paper, foil, or boxed sweets.

halloween sweets in pumpkin shaped dish.

Remove plastic from trick-or-treating

If your own kids are going trick-or-treating, don’t buy cheap plastic Halloween buckets for them to use. These often get used once then thrown away (or left in a cupboard and forgotten about until after you’ve bought another plastic Halloween bucket next year). Instead, use a bucket you already own and decorate with stickers or paint to add a creative pumpkin or skeleton design.

You could also add a Halloween theme to any plain fabric bags you own with a few black and orange pens. If your kids are more bothered about what’s in their bucket/bag than the container itself, simply send them out with a plastic carrier bag.

Provide plastic recycling bins

Going completely plastic free at Halloween can be tricky. For any plastic you use, try and make sure it’s recyclable first. Place a few plastic recycling bins around your workplace or office for easy access and encourage guests to recycle as much as possible. It might not completely eliminate plastic but at least it should divert lots from landfill.

Learn how to have a low waste Halloween

It’s estimated that around 33 million people dress up for Halloween in the UK every year. That’s 33 million Halloween costumes worn by children and adults to get into the spooky spirit – from witches and vampires to superheroes and the latest pop culture characters. But what happens to those costumes once November 1st arrives?

Unfortunately, lots are binned and end up in landfill. Buying a brand-new Halloween costume might be quick, convenient, and ensure you get a high-quality outfit that taps into any topical trends, but it’s another type of fast fashion. Many people wear a costume once then throw it away – and its environmental impact can be scarier than the costumes itself.

Learn all about Halloween costume waste, what happens to it, and ways to reduce it with our ideas for low waste costumes and sustainable disposal.

Visit our Halloween waste hub
zombies walking down street.

Halloween costume facts

Dressing up for Halloween is all part of the frightening fun. The costs and amount of waste it produces are truly terrifying though. To highlight the effect spooky season has on the waste industry, here are some stats, facts, and numbers about Halloween costumes:

  • Seven million Halloween costumes are thrown away every year in the UK.
  • 40% of Halloween costumes are only worn once.
  • Around 85% of Halloween costumes eventually end up in landfill.
  • Plastic makes up 83% of material in the average Halloween costume.
  • On average men spend £33.10 on a Halloween costume, while women splash out £67.80 – more than double.
  • More than a third of people buy Halloween costumes from supermarkets – only one in ten go to an independent fancy dress shop.
  • In the USA adults spend $1.5 billion on Halloween costumes, while for children it’s around $1.2 billion.
  • Three in four people dress up their pets for Halloween.
  • Halloween pet costumes account for 15% of all Halloween costume spending – around $490 million in the US alone.
  • Spending on Halloween costumes is the largest amount of all Halloween purchases (more than decorations, food and drink).
  • People aged between 35 and 44 spend the most on Halloween costumes (including purchases for their children), followed by those aged 25 to 34, then 45 to 54-year-olds.

What happens to Halloween costumes in landfill?

Most Halloween costumes thrown away in the UK contain non-recyclable, oil-based plastics – meaning when they’re thrown away, they go to landfill or for incineration. In total this adds up to around 2,000 tons of plastic waste – similar to 83 million plastic bottles being dumped in a landfill site.

The plastic materials of Halloween costumes can take tens to hundreds of years to break down when they sit in landfill – often between 50 and 600 years. For example, 63% of Halloween costumes contain polyester. This is a type of plastic derived from petroleum, which takes between 20 and 200 years to decompose.

As these costumes sit in landfill for many years, the chemicals in the plastics can leach and spread into the surrounding groundwater, soil, and air – contaminating nearby water sources. While the costumes decompose, they contribute to the methane gas landfills release. This is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes massively to global warming.

Some Halloween costumes disposed of with your general waste may be incinerated. This can generate heat and energy, and avoids taking up space in landfill. However, burning plastics still releases toxic gases including dioxins, furans, mercury, and BCPs that threaten human, animal, and environmental health.

How to source low waste Halloween costumes

To cut down on Halloween costume waste, there are other ways to get a petrifying outfit rather than buying brand new. Consider these methods to source a low or zero waste Halloween costume:

  • Visit charity shops – second-hand stores and charity shops sell all sorts of clothing you can use to create your own scary outfit. Many also sell preloved Halloween costumes donated by others, for a cheaper and more sustainable choice. Try eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Gumtree for affordable second-hand Halloween costumes too.
  • Borrow from a friend – seen someone you know in a fantastic costume? Ask friends and family if you can use it – after all, it’s likely only for one day. You can even repay the favour by lending them your old costume in return.
  • Hire a costume – renting a Halloween costume ensures you get a high-quality outfit for an affordable price, and it’ll get used again (after a wash) rather than going in the bin.
  • Go DIY – search your wardrobes, drawers, and cupboards for clothes and items to create your own costume. This adds real charm and ensures you’ll be in a totally unique outfit, which you can dismantle and use later.
  • Repurpose last year’s – last Halloween was a year ago. Nobody will remember what you went as, so why not just reuse the same costume? Or find a way to turn it into a different character and extend its life.
dog dressed in witch costume with cauldron.

Zero waste Halloween costume ideas

As long as you don’t throw away anything after wearing your spooky outfit, you’ve got a zero waste Halloween costume. The easiest way to create one is using items you already own that you can clean down after making your costume and reuse. Find inspiration for zero waste Halloween costumes with these ideas:

  • Ghost – all you need for this classic costume is a white sheet, dress, or loose white clothing. Rather than ruining a good sheet by cutting two eyeholes in it, stick a pair of sunglasses over the front for a cool ghost. Plus, you still have a usable bedsheet (just it might need a wash).
  • Ninja – plain black clothes are all you need to transform into a ninja. A black hoodie and trousers, long black dress or shirt with an additional balaclava, scarf, or bandana for your head can quickly turn you into a deadly assassin.
  • Bank robber – what’s scarier than losing all your money? Spending it all on a costume that ends up in landfill. Instead, throw on a striped t-shirt, beanie, and draw on (or grow) some stubble to create an effective criminal costume.
  • Skeleton – get a black t-shirt and sweatpants for the base, then draw on bones with white chalk. This should brush off and wash out afterwards, so your clothes won’t be ruined.
  • Dracula – unless you’ve got a cape lying about already, fashion one from a small black sheet, towel, or piece of fabric. Wear a smart white shirt underneath and pop on a bowtie to complete the look.
  • Clown – you might need to buy a wig, but otherwise mix any brightly coloured clothes then paint your face white with a red nose to become a cheap and cheerful clown (or a sinister one if that’s more your style).

How to dispose of old Halloween costumes

Eventually the life of your Halloween costume may come to an end if it gets damaged, worn out, or you simply have no space for it. The best thing to do is give it to a friend or family member. Or you could donate to a charity shop or sell/give it away for free online through eBay or Facebook Marketplace.

Whatever you do, don’t throw away a Halloween costume with general waste, as it’ll end up in landfill or incineration. Another more environmentally friendly option is to send your old costume for textile recycling. Here the fabrics can be stripped down and reused, while any other materials will be sent for recycling and proper disposal.

Contact us if you have old Halloween costumes you want to recycle or have any questions about the process.

As Halloween creeps closer once again, the excess waste we create celebrating spooky season starts to increase. Every year in the UK we spend a scary £300 million on Halloween – for costumes, decorations, food and drink. A terrifying amount of these items are thrown away and end up in landfill.

Cutting down on waste by recycling and making small changes means you can still have a fun and frightful Halloween while protecting the environment. There are all sorts of low and zero waste Halloween ideas available whether you’re decorating your home, throwing a party, or just taking the kids trick-or-treating.

Use these tips and tricks for a waste free Halloween this year.

Explore our Halloween waste guides
dog in ghost costume next to pumpkin.

Low waste Halloween costumes

According to The Fairyland Trust, 79% of kids dress up for Halloween every year in the UK (as do plenty of adults). Frighteningly though, about seven million Halloween costumes are binned each year and four in ten costumes are only worn once. Sadly, most of these creepy costumes end up in landfill.

Rather than joining in with the fast fashion trend and buying a brand-new costume, consider these zero waste Halloween ideas for you or your children’s costumes:

  • Hire a costume – if you really want to petrify people or have a specific character in mind, hire rather than buy a Halloween costume. This saves you money and means it’ll be reused rather than binned or sit in a cupboard for years.
  • Make your own – check your wardrobe for inspiration and see what you own already that can be used or adapted into a costume for you or your kids. Sheets, jackets, sweatshirts, and more can transform into simple yet scary DIY costumes like ghosts, animals, and zombies. Plus, you can dismantle them to wear/use as normal after – leaving no waste.
  • Buy a second-hand one – charity shops are great for finding items to create your own costume, but many sell complete Halloween costumes once worn by someone else. This is a sustainable choice, just check it fits and give it a wash before wearing.
  • Recycle your costume – if you must get rid of your old costume, when moving house or if it no longer fits, there are green options. Donate to a charity shop or send it for textile recycling, so the materials will be reused.

Zero waste Halloween decorations

Just over 2,000 tonnes of extra plastic waste are created every Halloween in the UK. While costumes are the main cause, the other main culprit is Halloween decorations – from lights to plastic and inflatable characters around your garden and home. Most of these are put up once, then binned when November rolls around.

Zero waste Halloween décor helps cut the amount of rubbish produced. Reusing any plastic Halloween decorations you already have and keeping them for future years is ideal. Most of them last for ages, which means you don’t need to buy any more, reducing the demand and avoiding creating extra plastic waste.

Other ideas for zero waste Halloween décor include:

  • Making your own zero waste Halloween decorations from old sheets, clothes, and fabric. Easily turn these into ghosts to hang around the house with a bit of creativity.
  • Using cardboard boxes, used kitchen rolls, and plastic bottles to create spooky animals such as bats and spiders. When Halloween is over you can simply recycle these materials as normal.
  • Buying eco-friendly Halloween decorations that are recyclable – such as paper bunting, signs, and lanterns.
  • Create tin can lanterns by punching small holes in the side of a clean and empty food can in the shape of your chosen Halloween character. Then pop in a tea light and place in a safe space for a spooky effect. You can always recycle the can later.
  • Spread dry leaves from outside on the floor and surfaces to create an autumnal aesthetic, which you can sweep away and compost at the end.

Waste free Halloween treats

Sweets and treats are Halloween staples, whether you’re handing them out to trick-or-treaters or have them in a bowl at your party. However, most Halloween sweet wrappers are made from types of plastic that aren’t recyclable. These include metallised plastic film (that looks like foil), combinations of plastic and foil (that can’t be separated) or plastics that are too low quality to recycle.

Choose sweets that come in recyclable packaging when preparing for trick-or-treaters. Waste free Halloween treats can include chocolate and sweets wrapped in paper or cardboard, as these are more likely to be recyclable. Most will say on the side whether the packaging can be recycled or not.

Other ideas for waste free Halloween treats include:

  • Home baking – if you’ve got the time, skills, and desire, why not bake your own Halloween cookies or cakes? Split these up into even portions and hand them out from a tin so there’s no packaging required.
  • Glass jar sweets – buy a traditional big sweet jar full of Halloween treats that aren’t individually wrapped to reduce packaging. Plus, glass recycling is a lot easier than plastic – or you can reuse the jar in the future.
  • Healthy snacks – fruit normally has less packaging and any waste is compostable, while some healthy crisps and treats may be in recyclable packets.

No waste tricks

Every Halloween party needs some ghoulish games, whether it’s for kids or adults. Most traditional Halloween tricks and games are low or zero waste anyway, such as apple bobbing and scary scavenger hunts. There are plenty more waste-free Halloween tricks you can add to spice up any party, such as:

  • Spooky bean bag toss – a terrifying twist on traditional bean bag toss. Decorate some old tin cans or plastic cups with Halloween characters, stack them up, and see who can knock the most down in three tries. You can always recycle the cans or plastic cups afterwards too.
  • Stringed up doughnuts – hang up a washing line inside or outside and attach a few doughnuts. Participants must eat one doughnut each without using their hands – fastest to finish wins. Plus, it shouldn’t leave any food waste behind.
  • Best dressed Mummy – teams of two or more use toilet roll to wrap someone up like a Mummy with a prize for the best one done within a time limit. All the toilet roll paper should be collected at the end and wrapped up to use or sent for paper recycling.

Pumpkins and party food

A petrifying 14.5 million pumpkins are thrown away in the UK around Halloween every year. They’re often carved up and discarded in a few days, leaving waste companies to deal with a big influx at once. But there are various ways you can cook and eat them to avoid adding to food waste.

Roast pumpkin seeds as a healthy snack, make pumpkin soup, or bake a sweet pumpkin cake (a terrifying take on traditional carrot cake). These all make great options when preparing party food for Halloween or Bonfire night just a few days later.

Try and buy sweet and savoury food in recyclable packaging when planning your Halloween party. Cooking yourself or asking friends to bring a dish or two also reduces packaging. Avoid using plastic disposable cups, cutlery, and plates too – as these can be tricky to recycle – even if the spooky designs fit the theme.

Things to do with pumpkins after Halloween
pumpkin and ghost light on shelf.

Recycle your Hallowaste

Waste is unavoidable in some cases at Halloween but recycling as much as possible can minimise the environmental impact of your frightening fun. Having recycling bins for paper, cardboard, and dry mixed recycling in high traffic areas that are easily accessible should encourage staff and guests to recycle as much rubbish as possible.

Whether you’re having a Halloween party at work, home, or just decorating the office for spooky season, we can sort you out with the right recycling bins. Contact us today for a free quote for your waste collections.