Trick or trash? This question was asked across the country throughout the month of October, as more than 730 schools and small businesses in all 50 U.S. states took part in Rubicon’s second-annual Trick or Trash™ Halloween recycling campaign.

The Trick or Trash program was designed to help reduce the waste that accumulates every year around Halloween by providing safe and easy-to-assemble recycling boxes to schools and small businesses, which can be filled with discarded candy wrappers and other snack packaging. This plastic is thin, cheap, and notoriously difficult to recycle. The vast majority ends up in landfills and often our waterways and our oceans. But by using these boxes, Trick or Trash participants needed only to deposit their wrappers and return the box to our specialist recycler, making Halloween sweeter and more sustainable!

Saniah McCray, Trick or Trash recycling enthusiast and Helping Ninjas volunteer in Carmel, IN, shares her excitement before Halloween wrapper collection at her school.

After the success of last year’s inaugural Trick or Trash campaign, in which we reached more than 470 schools in 49 states, and diverted an estimated 4,000 pounds of wrappers and packaging from landfills, we wanted to go bigger this year and expand the campaign’s reach and impact in 2020.

The Results

Rubicon’s Trick or Trash 2020 campaign not only reached more people than last year’s campaign, finding its way to more than 730 schools and small businesses in all 50 U.S. states—we got you this time, Wyoming!—it also improved upon the number of candy wrappers and other packaging diverted from landfills and oceans, increasing from 4,000 pounds of wrappers and packaging in 2019, to an estimated 7,000 pounds this year.

Achieving these fantastic results was, of course, challenging at times. The COVID-19 public health emergency meant that many schools across the country were functioning remotely, which is why we expanded the program to include small businesses and other community hubs that were remaining open and accessible, and thus able to host a Trick or Trash Halloween candy wrapper recycling box. It was inspiring to see the variety of businesses that joined in! From dentist offices to grocery stores, from scout troops to sustainability clubs, community businesses big and small demonstrated their passion for reducing their waste and inspiring their community to recycle more.

The Educational Element

Mahirah Rokarya, teacher at Liberty Elementary School, Canton, GA, poses with the Trick or Trash box before her recycling lesson for students.

Trick or Trash saved thousands upon thousands of pounds of Halloween candy wrappers from ending up in the landfill, ensuring that this plastic is recycled and turned into new, useful objects such as park benches or playsets. This immediate impact is hugely important, but so too is the long-term recycling awareness and excitement generated by this program. This is why we created educational materials to bring to life the importance of recycling and waste diversion, while introducing the concept of the “circular economy,” an important evolution of today’s mainstream “take-make-waste” production model.

Lesson plans, fact sheets, and even lunch box reminders were made available to download from the Trick or Trash website. These materials were designed for both in-person and distance learning, in recognition of limited school attendance in some parts of the country due to COVID-19. This year, we expanded the scope and the impact of our educational materials by partnering with the National Wildlife Federation:

“Educating and inspiring the next generation of environmental and wildlife champions is central to our work and mission at the National Wildlife Federation. We’re proud to partner with Rubicon on the Trick or Trash™ campaign to show millions of Americans how small steps, like reducing waste and recycling, can help recover wildlife populations and restore natural resources,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation. “By bringing together students, teachers, and business owners to reduce waste from contaminating our lands and waters, we will both ensure healthier communities for people and save habitat for imperiled wildlife.”

Thank you to everyone who took part in Trick or Trash 2020. In a year of unique challenges, especially for educators and small business owners, you all stepped up to do right by your community.

Rubicon’s mission is to end waste, in all of its forms. The schools and small businesses that took part in Trick or Trash this year have, we hope, at least in a small way, instilled a recycling habit in the entire community that will last far beyond this year’s Halloween festivities.

Stay tuned for more Trick or Trash in 2021!

Katie Kinnear is Sr. Manager of Social Media and Engagement at Rubicon and was the inspiration behind creating the Trick or Trash campaign. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.