These Halloween Tricks are a Treat for the Environment and the Pocketbook

Clay-mation zombie walks with a recycling bin in hand

Looking for some true terror this Halloween? Just consider what happens to all those candy wrappers, costumes and decorations after all the ghouls and goblins have gone home for the night.

Fear not! Wake County Solid Waste has fun and easy tips to lend a touch of green to all that orange and black this Halloween.

“Halloween doesn’t have to be a fright for the environment, and the most eco-friendly ideas can save your family money, too,” said Bianca Howard, outreach and marketing coordinator for Wake County Solid Waste. “These tips are such no-brainers, they’re guaranteed not to attract zombies.”

Get crafty with your decorations
There’s more to Halloween crafts than witchcraft. Instead of buying decorations, raid the recycling bin for ways to reanimate old household items as decorations.

The internet is full of fun projects. You can draw faces on old milk jugs and add lights for a spooky display of “spirit jugs,” convert egg cartons into spooky bats and turn old boxes into tombstones for your front-yard cemetery, to name a few.

When you’re done, share your creations on social media to encourage your friends and family to use their creativity instead of their credit cards for this year’s decorations.

Skip the single-use costumes
What’s more embarrassing than being the umpteenth kid on the block wearing the same plastic super-hero costume from the local big box store? Throwing it away at the end of the night after just one use. Yikes!

Some of the coolest costumes come from items already found around the house. For a throwback look, an old white sheet makes a classic ghost, and many closets have the clothes needed to cobble together a cowboy or lumberjack costume. You’ll find dozens of DIY ideas online.

If you’ve got your heart set on a pre-made costume, check the local thrift store, Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace first instead of buying something new. You’ll save money and help the environment.

Ditch the disposable treat bags
While you’re crafting your costume, remember to fashion yourself something to collect all that candy in. Single-use plastic treat bags aren’t just bad for the planet – they can easily rip, spilling all that precious loot you’ve collected.

Instead, look around the house for a reusable tote, tub or bucket to carry around the neighborhood. For a high-fashion effect, collect your candy in a big purse. If comfort’s the top priority, gather goodies in an empty backpack. And it’s hard to beat the classic pillowcase, which has served generations of trick-or-treaters and holds an unbelievable amount of candy.

Add some pumpkin power to your soil
Keep those jack-o’-lanterns out of the trash can! When we send organic materials to the landfill, bacteria break them down to release methane – a powerful greenhouse gas that traps heat in our environment 25 times more efficiently than carbon dioxide.

Composting curbs global warming and turns leftovers into nutrient-rich soil instead. It’s easy to get started with pumpkins, even if you don’t have a dedicated bin. All you need is a shady spot in the garden or a natural area.

First, remove any candles, foil or other items you used as decorations. Then, head to your shady spot and smash those pumpkins like it’s 1979. The smaller pieces will speed up the composting. Finally, cover the pumpkin pile with a loose layer of leaves or wood chips to keep away pests and add some necessary carbon for the composting process.

Over the next few weeks, Mother Nature will handle the rest, leaving you with nutrient-rich compost to spread in your lawn or garden. Your plants can’t wait to gorge on those gourds come springtime!

Cut back on candy wrappers
Is it just us, or do “fun size” candies get littler every year? Those smaller sweets mean more plastic wrappers per trick-or-treater, and all that unrecyclable trash ends up in the landfill. Plus, those Halloween candy packs are pricy!

Instead, try baking cookies, brownies or another grabbable goody to serve to trick-or-treaters. Popcorn is another popular option. You could also hand out something kids will actually use, such as school supplies or small toys. If you’re going to buy single-serving sweets, look for something packaged in paper that can be recycled or composted.

Save things to re-use next year
We get it. Sometimes, it’s just easier to buy Halloween costumes and decorations off the shelf. If you do go shopping, look for items you can use again next fall. Even if something was made to be disposable, you can often stretch out a few extra uses with a little care. Plus, the more wear and tear those decorations take over the years, the scarier they’ll become!

Got a costume or decoration that you can’t see yourself using again? Donate, sell or swap it instead of throwing it away.

Wake County Solid Waste Management
The Wake County Solid Waste Management Division provides waste disposal and recycling services to residents and businesses in Wake County. The division manages 19 waste facilities including a landfill, waste transfer station, residential waste and recycling convenience centers, household hazardous waste and multi-material recycling drop-off facilities. To learn more, visit

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