For many, Halloween isn’t just one night—it’s a full month of spooky fun, culminating in an evening of trick-or-treating that millions of kids (and plenty of adults, too) look forward to all year. Candy is, of course, central to the celebration. It’s also responsible for one of the scariest parts of the holiday: piles and piles of plastic waste.
Every year, Americans purchase more than 600 million pounds of candy for Halloween alone. That means a whole lot of wrappers and other plastic-based packaging. Without proper recycling, almost all of that plastic ends up in landfills or oceans, where it breaks down into invisible microplastics that then invade our soil, plants, wildlife, and—eventually—our bodies. In fact, recent research suggests that people may be consuming a credit card’s worth of plastic (five grams) every week.
Rubicon created the Trash or Treasure™ waste reduction program to address this problem. Trash or Treasure makes recycling those pesky plastic wrappers easier for everyone, from students to small businesses. But recycling wrappers isn’t the only way to help manage the massive waste potential of Halloween. To keep your celebrations sustainable, you should also consider eco-friendly alternatives to traditional candies when it comes to filling up trick-or-treaters’ bags.
Here are six suggestions to get you started:
Choose Candy Packaged in Paper or Aluminum Foil
Sometimes there’s simply no avoiding single-use plastics. But good news: Halloween is not one of those times. There are plenty of candies that come in paper boxes, which can be recycled much more easily than plastic wrappers—or even composted, if they aren’t coated. Aluminum is also highly recyclable, especially if you’re able to combine multiple bits of packaging into a larger ball that won’t slip through the recycling machinery or get lost in the mix.
Opt for Treats Wrapped in Edible Packaging
If you’d like to take things to the next level, seek out candies with packaging that can also be eaten—for example, rice paper. This goes a long way in keeping waste out of the environment. For maximum sustainability, you can even purchase edible wrappers on their own and use them as smaller-serving packages for candy bought loose and in bulk, such as candy corn or gummy bears.
Offer a Beverage Instead—But Stick with Aluminum Cans or Glass Bottles
A delicious soda, seltzer water, juice, or other beverage can be just as fun and festive as candy, not to mention extra eco-friendly—as long as you make sure it’s in a recyclable container, like an aluminum can or glass bottle. Aluminum cans are totally recyclable; just don’t crush them, as the change in shape can jam the tubes that lead into the recycling machinery. Glass can be recycled infinitely, making it potentially the most sustainable (non-edible) packaging option.
Give Out Whole Fruits, Especially Ones with Protective Peels
Fresh, whole fruits can be a sustainable and healthy option to replace standard candies. Ones with protective peels are recommended, not only because they don’t need any additional packaging, but also because they ensure—and assure trick-or-treaters and their caretakers—that the edible contents are sealed, sanitary, and safe. It doesn’t hurt that those peels can go right into the compost pile after the fruit has been eaten.
Go with Supplies for School or Home Activities
Who says Halloween treats have to be edible? Consider fun and functional supplies like pencils, erasers, crayons, miniature notepads, and bookmarks. This way you’re avoiding the plastic-packaging problem altogether while providing useful tools that are recyclable, reusable, biodegradable, or a combination of the three.
Flip a Coin—into Trick-or-Treaters’ Bags
They say cash is king. And when it comes to cold, hard cash, there’s nothing colder or harder than coins. Quarters, 50-cent pieces, and even dollar coins can be surprising and delightful treats for Halloween visitors from a variety of age groups. Best of all, because the coins will either be saved or spent, they are a true zero-waste way to go. No recycling necessary!