WASHINGTON, D.C. – The pandemic has rightly changed the way Americans celebrate holidays, and parents and communities across the country are grappling with if and how to safely carry on with Halloween traditions later this month.
One thing that’s unlikely to change is how much plastic waste is produced, from candy wrappers to decorations and more. Scientists estimate that 11 million metric tons of plastics enter the ocean each year (that’s more than a garbage truck every minute). But there are ways to help from home. Whether you plan to hand out candy, decorate your stoop, or even just host a virtual Halloween costume contest, Ocean Conservancy is offering these three easy tips to make it the most ocean-friendly Halloween yet.
- Reject those wrappers. A report released last month showed that 2019 became the first year in more than three decades that cigarette butts did not top the list of trash found on beaches and waterways during Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Rather, it was food wrappers. In fact, volunteers collected nearly 5 million food wrappers in a single day. Despite their sometimes metallic appearance, food wrappers – which include candy wrappers – are made of plastic, which means they stay in the environment and our ocean indefinitely. They’re also not recyclable. So for an ocean-friendlier Halloween, opt for boxed or foil-wrapped candies. If your little one collects loads of plastic-wrapped treats, make sure the packaging is tossed in the trash and not in the recycling bin (or worse, in the street). If you’re staying inside and feeding friends or family only, see what treats you can whip up that don’t require wrappers at all.
- Reuse, reuse, reuse. Most Halloween decorations are made of plastic, and many are one-time-use only (like those stretchy white spider webs). Opt for decorations that are durable enough to stand the test of tricks (and weather), and that can be reused year after year. If you have a creative streak, see what décor you can create from items you already have at home, including in your waste or recycling bin. The same is true of costumes. Are there ways to reuse previous costume elements? Can you craft an accessory out of cardboard, plastic bottles, or other materials you have lying around? If you absolutely need something “new,” thrift shops are always an excellent (and affordable) option.
- #CleanOn. Even with the best intentions, it’s common in the days following Halloween to see candy wrappers strewn in the streets, or stray, lightweight plastic decorations hanging from trees or peeking behind bushes. Consider doing a quick, pandemic-safe cleanup in your neighborhood. Ocean Conservancy created an easy guide for its International Coastal Cleanup that can be used all year round. Download Ocean Conservancy’s award-nominated Clean Swell app and log what you find into the world’s largest database of marine debris. No matter how far you are from the ocean, you’ll be helping your community, and all the critters that rely on clean, healthy waterways to thrive.
No matter how you celebrate Halloween, remember to stay safe and follow all local pandemic guidelines.
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About Ocean Conservancy
Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit oceanconservancy.org, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.