Don’t be Haunted by Waste this Halloween

Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay

This year, we may find ourselves returning to more normal holiday celebrations with family gatherings and traditions. That could mean a return to the holiday buying and the waste that it can generate. So, this year, maybe we can build the holidays back better, with a focus on experiences rather than things. With its disposable costumes and unrecyclable candy wrappings, let’s start with Halloween.

To reduce holiday waste, the waste hierarchy applies: reduce, reuse, recycle, rot.

Reduce: for what you buy, buy less. If you need a costume, instead of buying a new one that is primarily made from plastic designed for one use, put one together with items you or others have at home. If you’re having a Covid-friendly gathering, set out reusable cups, plates and napkins rather than disposables such as single-serve water bottles or plastic utensils.

Reuse:  if you don’t have to buy something disposable – for instance single-use decorations, don’t! Use reusable ones that gather sentimental value over the years. If you’re on a budget, many thrift stores offer reusable decorations and costumes at this time of year. You can swap used costumes or find them at thrift stores as well.  Alternatively, create costumes out of materials you already have at home.

Recycle: any clean paper, metal, glass and plastic products that are accepted in San Jose’s curbside program. See the Recycling Guide on for details. Remember to keep food and liquid out of the recycling container. Make it easy for your partygoers by putting signs on your recycling and garbage containers to let them know what goes where.

Rot:  Halloween treats are fun, but their wrappers are not. Unfortunately, these tiny multi-material wrappers are garbage and can easily rot the landscape as litter. As an alternative, reduce candy wrapper waste by making your own or offering fruit (that comes in its own packaging) such as bananas or oranges.  Any leftovers can be composted along with your pumpkin jack-o-lanterns. (Just keep them out of the yard trimmings pile or cart!) Be sure to remove any candles or decorations from the pumpkins first.

If fruit is a step too far, look for candies that come in cardboard and paper packaging such as milk duds, rather than plastic wrappers.

The holidays can create a lot of waste along with all the merriment. With some careful planning and creativity, you can minimize the waste and still maximize the fun.

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