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Halloween is the day scary is celebrated, but the most frightening part may be the amount of waste produced over the festivity.

Becoming a staple fete in the year, half of all Britons will spend money on Halloween, with the number rising to 85% of parents of under-fives.

However, while occupying just one day of the calendar, the 31st of October hides a startling secret of wastefulness from plastics to food.

One of the key traditions of Halloween is dressing up, with over 30 million people across the UK adorning costumes each year.

In a study by environmental charity Hubbub alongside the Fairyland Trust, it was found that the seasonal outfits produce 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste – the equivalent of 83 million bottles.

Surveying costumes from 19 leading supermarkets and retailers, including notorious fast fashion brands such as Boohoo and PrettyLittleThing, the research found that 83% of the materials used were polluting oil-based plastic, likely to end up in landfill.

The most prevalent plastic polymer found was polyester, accounting for 63% of all analysed materials, which can take anywhere between 20 to 200 years to decompose.

Additionally, when decomposing, polyester and other synthetic plastic fibres release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the environment.

In 2016 it was estimated that 7 million Halloween outfits were discarded, but even if the consumer opts to keep their spooky attire, washing synthetic material releases tiny plastic microfibres into our rivers and oceans.

Plastic waste is not limited to costumes, with an array of decorations, toys and accessories available for the celebrations, often unrecyclable and discarded once the party is over.

Another feature of Halloween is of course pumpkins, with a quarter of the country expected to purchase an amass of almost 17 million.

Of all pumpkins grown in the UK every year, 95% are used for lanterns over the Halloween season.

And, the spooky festivities produce 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin waste, with only a third of consumers cooking what is left over after carving.

Similarly to decomposing outfits, pumpkins also release methane, which has more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide.

Along with pumpkin carving, a growing practice of Halloween is trick-or-treating, which again creates a copious amount of both food and wrapping waste.

Sweet sales over the Halloween period reach the high millions, with many going uneaten or covered in wrappers that are impossible or difficult to recycle.

What can be done?

It isn’t all doom and gloom for the Halloween season however, with a more environmentally friendly celebration easily achieved.

Instead of heading online or to the supermarket for a Halloween costume, options include renting, purchasing from charity shops or adapting existing clothing or materials such as cardboard or bedsheets.

If a newly bought outfit is necessary, donating it to a charity shop or a website such as Freecycle, which allows users to gift items to people in their local area, will prevent a post-Halloween landfill pile-up.

Pumpkin flesh can be used to make an assortment of autumnal dishes such as soups, pies and risottos.

It is even possible to remove pumpkin seeds, boil and drain, then bake them in the oven for a healthy, crunchy snack.

Anything leftover from the squash plant can be placed in a food waste recycling bin or composted.

And while trick-or-treating may currently be shelved due to Covid-19, ideas for the future include baking treats or decorating fruits, all avoiding non-recyclable sweet wrappers.

When it comes to decorations, ornaments that can be re-used are a wiser choice than those that are single-use and quite often plastic.

And, if decorations are only needed for a single celebration, opting for easily recycled materials and recycling any batteries included within them will also limit Halloween’s eco-horror.

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