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The List: 5 Tips for Dealing With Halloween's Detritus

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Pumpkins and candies and costumes, oh my! How do you minimize waste when Halloween has come and gone?

Tomorrow, the ghouls and goblins will be out in full force… but come November 1, there’s something even scarier: all the post-Halloween trash.

Don’t know how to deal with past-their-prime jack-o’-lanterns, an avalanche of candy (and their wrappers?), leftover decorations, and trashed costumes? These tips will help you minimize waste on Halloween, and dispose of what’s left as sustainably as possible.

1. The Switch Witch. I’d like to thank whichever smart mommy invented the concept of the Switch Witch, who comes to children on Halloween night, replacing their candy with a toy or some money. After all, kids don’t need all that candy! But neither do their parents, so what to do with the overflow (once you’ve sorted out the good stuff for yourself, of course!)? Operation Gratitude, which ships the candy to U.S. Troops, is one possibility. Other local options include dropping it off at children’s hospitals, homeless shelters or food pantries, or nursing homes. Make sure to call first to make sure they will accept the donation.

2. New Life for Candy Wrappers. Okay, so you and your kids ended up bingeing on candy and all that’s left is a pile of wrappers. Sadly, candy wrappers aren’t recyclable, as our own Proper Green learned a few years ago. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to end up in a landfill! I’ve seen a ton of cute ways to upcycle the colorful and shiny wrappers: Use them in jewelry; to decoupage onto bowls, boxes or vases; or fold them into chains to use in kitchy home décor.

3. Repurpose Spiderwebs. Front yards in my neighborhood are strewn with fake cobwebs. Bags of the polyester fibers are cheap to buy and easy to drape over shrubs and porch rails. Next year I’m going to opt for the more eco-friendly recycled fiberfill, and when trick-or-treating is done this year, the webs are going to be pulled off my porch and tucked into my sewing supplies where I can use them to stuff a set of throw pillows for my sofa.

4. Recycle and Reuse Halloween Costumes. Depending on what your Halloween costume is made of, there are ways of recycling or reusing it. Store-bought costumes can be swapped with other families (either hold onto it until Halloween planning begins next year or see if anyone wants to swap kids’ costumes in November to use as dress-up clothes). If your costume isn’t quite right to be used again, chances are you can recycle fabric or plastic components, or donate any other usable parts. And maybe next year consider making your costumes from recycled materials or stuff you already have around the house?

5. Pitching Your Pumpkins. If you’ve carved your pumpkins into jack-o’-lanterns, you probably know that after a few weeks they start looking a little worse for the wear. Don’t throw it in the trash — instead, compost it or offer it up to friends with backyard chickens. Even if you don’t have a compost pile, simply smashing your old jack-o’-lantern and burying it in your garden will help amend the soil with nutrients. An option to consider next year for prolonging the life of your holiday pumpkins: Instead of carving a pumpkin, embellish it with a non-scary design so that it’ll look festive through Thanksgiving. Or use a sharpie to draw a jack-o’-lantern face on one side, then after Halloween, simply turn it around so that it can be part of a festive harvest display. While you can’t compost pumpkins that have typical craft paint on them, they will last longer!

What’s your favorite way to be sustainable for Halloween? Share your tips in the comments below.

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About the Author
Jessica Harlan
Jessica Harlan

I love finding new ways to green my family's life as painlessly as possible, and sharing those ideas with folks who want to do the same.

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  • Patricia S. 8 months ago
    I try to invent new costumes with items around my house. I was looking for a battery operated light for my pantry, I found one that looks like a switch. Not only does it work in my pantry I Velcro the light to an old shade took a lace curtain valance covered the light and lamp shade. My costume a lamp, the light can be on & off. Cost $2.99 for the light. Pat
  • Lucy T. 8 months ago
    I would not use ANY synthetic spiderweb material outdoors, whether labeled "ecofriendly" or not. It is dangerous to wild life, who can get tangled up in it.
  • wayne w. 1 year ago
    Compost
  • philip m. 1 year ago
    I carve artificial jack-o-lanterns I get from the craft store. I use them over and over. In fact I have had the same ones for 15 years now.
  • tommy b. 1 year ago
    Today
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