Thunder Bay – LIVING – The last thing most people likely think of at Halloween is the environmental impact. Now to be sure, for many readers, that statement brings out thoughts of being a “spoil sport” for fun and the enjoyment we all get at Halloween.
However at Halloween, everything seems to be covered in single-use plastic – from bite-sized chocolate bars to throwaway costumes. And this puts our ocean, lakes, rivers and planet at risk.
Ocean Wise says, “What’s the scariest part about Halloween? The ghoulish costumes? The frightening films? The impending sugar crash? For many Canadians, it’s none of the above – it’s the waste”.
“Plastic that is not recycled or disposed of properly can end up in waterways. And sadly, this plastic is causing grave injury, malnutrition or even death to ocean animals who ingest it, thinking it is food. Ocean animals like whales, sea lions and birds can also get tangled in plastic and suffocate,” says Laura Hardman, Ocean Wise’s Director of Plastic Free Oceans.
“What’s more, once plastic is in the ocean it breaks apart into smaller-and-smaller pieces – something scientists call microplastics. We now know the ocean is drowning in microplastics. Our scientists have found microplastic particles almost everywhere they have looked from local shorelines to the Arctic, from shellfish to beluga whales.
So how can you make this Halloween less plastic and more fantastic? From costumes to decorations, Ocean Wise’s Plastic Free Oceans team has a number of top tips for an “ocean wise” Halloween.
The problem is that most costumes are designed to be worn once and then thrown away. Worse still, they are all too often made from synthetic materials (like polyester, acrylic and nylon) that release plastic fibers into the environment. Ocean Wise recommends:
- Re-purpose an old costume, or make your costume from old clothes. It is amazing what you can find at the back of your closet that can be altered or repurposed with a little imagination.
- Hold a costume swap with friends. Swapping Halloween costumes with friends is a great way to reduce waste and save money. Afterall, what are friends for?
- Check out your local thrift shop. Raided all possible closets in your household and still no joy? Venture down to your local thrift shop. Some of our favourite costumes have been vintage finds coupled with creative make-up.
- Still buying a new costume? If all else fails and you chose to buy a new costume, look for something you would wear again and that is made from natural fibers. Avoid glitter: sparkles are fun, but these tiny bits of plastic escape into waterways leading many scientists to call for a full-blown glitter ban.
It simply would not be Halloween without a sweet fix. Chew on this when planning your Halloween menu:
- Home made goodies: Home made treats, rather than individually wrapped ones, are the easiest way to reduce packaging waste. There are a wealth of recipes to try and your creations can be packaged in reusable bags, jars, or paper wrapping.
- Buy bulk: Head to the bulk isle in your local supermarket to get your sweet fix without the packaging.
- Think Recycling: When planning beverages, note that aluminum cans of pop or juice are most commonly recyclable.
- Cardboard over plastic: Still need prepacked sweets? Look out for candy options boxed in cardboard (like Smarties), or sweet treats wrapped in foil. These wrappers stand a slightly better chance of being recycled (depending on your local facilities and the level of contamination).
- Lighting your path: Use flashlights (or a bike light) rather than one-time-use glow sticks to light up the streets and your kids.
- Goodie bags: Instead of buying another single use bag for collecting candy, encourage your kids to repurposing that stash of reusable bags, or go old school and carry a pillowcase. Decorating your bags can be a ton of fun, but please avoid the glitter.
Protecting the ocean from plastic waste is not about a few people doing zero waste perfectly – so there’s no need to be scared. It’s about everyone making ocean wise decisions when they can. Just remember: the decisions you make – at Halloween and any time of year – can have a positive impact for our planet.