Halloween. How to avoid scary amounts of waste!

Fancy Dress Costumes

Every year, we buy thousands of new Halloween Costumes. These are often made from polyester or other synthetic plastic fibres. And every year, huge numbers of these costumes are thrown away. In fact, a study in 2017 estimated that the previous year, a whopping 7 million costumes were disposed of in the UK* – often ending up in landfill or being incinerated. Every year, we’d like to try to encourage people to reuse and pass on costumes to limit this huge waste source. But what if you have a Halloween or fancy dress costume that you no longer need or want? What should you do with it? Here are some ideas.

  1. Pass it on to friends or family. The most simple and straightforward way is just to ask around in your family or friendship group if anyone wants to use it or swap it for another costume that they no longer want, need or fit. It may be that younger children in your family or friends’ families might be able to use it. Rather than chucking it in the bin, it keeps on being used for as long as possible.
  2. Donate it to charity. If it is clean and in good repair, you can donate it to a local charity shop to help them raise funds for good causes. A great way to ensure it gets a new lease of life with a new owner, whilst helping a charity at the same time.
  3. Set up a school swap event to raise money for charity. This is another great way to keep fancy dress costumes in use and can also raise money for the school’s PTA or a charity of choice. The Final Straw Foundation offers a range of free posters and organisational tools to set this up at your school here: https://finalstrawfoundation.org/2021/09/30/big-halloween-costume-swap/ It works by encouraging parents and students to bring their old costumes into school, which are collected for a swap event. Pupils then bring in £1 or a nominal amount to buy a ‘new’ preloved costume from the selection, raising some funds in the process.
  4. Upcycle it for another event. If you have a costume that is starting to look a little worn, why not make it into a Halloween costume? You can make a perfect zombie costume from an old princess dress or superhero costume! Simply apply fake blood or paints, or tear it a bit more for a real ‘just crawled out of a graveyard’ look!
  5. Chop it up. Yes really! So many fancy dress costumes are made from netting, sparkles and colourful fabrics. They are perfect for arts and crafts – Halloween costumes would also be great for making Halloween decorations. Black netting, old masks and spooky patterns could all be made into decorations that you can then reuse year after year. 

When it’s time to think about a replacement costume, it’s great to see if you can use existing old clothes or visit charity shops to see what you can find. You are much more likely to make or find something really unique – why not give it a go? Check out this little Ghostbuster – costume made using his Dad’s old shirt, Ghostbuster patch and rucksack!

Homemade Ghostbusters costume
Image (c) Amy Rushton


Oh, the sweets at Halloween! So much sugar, so many sweeteners, so many meltdowns and so much plastic! Covid hasn’t helped us here either from a plastic-waste perspective, as we noticed a real marked move towards individually wrapped sweets again.

However, there are options! Go for foil or paper-wrapped sweets. How about card boxes of smarties, candies or even raisins? You could go to the pick and mix and get some small paper bags for individual treat bags?

Photo by Taylor Rooney on Unsplash

Finally, heaven forbid, fruit, which of course comes in its own wrapper, like tangerines – although not many people want to be THAT house!


Are you a subtly spooky Halloween house, an outrageously horrifying house of horror or a ‘lights off, close the door, lock the gate’ kind of person on the 31st of October? If you are either of the former, from an environmental perspective it’s amazing if you can go for items that you reuse year after year. There are so many cheap, disposable Halloween decorations out there that are not only bad for the environment in terms of footprint and waste, but also bad for your pocket.

Here are some alternative ideas:

Photo by Bee Felten-Leidel on Unsplash


Nationally, it’s estimated that around 4 million pumpkins are purchased each year. These are carved and chopped to make amazing ghoulish displays, but what happens to them afterwards? According to research, about 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin go to waste each year**.

What’s the alternative? We are often unaware of the versatility of pumpkin flesh as food – in fact, it is estimated that in the UK only 33% of people cook the flesh of the pumpkins they carve out. Find some tasty pumpkin recipes here: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/top-20-pumpkin-recipes

Another option is to buy the kind of squash that we may be more used to eating rather than traditional pumpkins. Butternut squash, for example, can be carved into brilliant designs and the flesh of the squash is perhaps more appetising than the normal Halloween pumpkin.

So there you go. A few ways to reduce waste at Halloween – which ideas will you try?


*Source: https://www.circularonline.co.uk/news/7-million-halloween-costumes-ended-bin-last-year/


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