A Guide to Recycling Halloween Decorations

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.

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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
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