Could You Make a Plastic-Free Costume This Halloween?

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kid sits on floor making plastic free halloween costume

Treehugger / Katherine Martinko

Most costumes are single-use plastics, made from polyester that's essentially disposable and non-recyclable. We can do better than that.

Here's an interesting challenge. Would you be able to celebrate Halloween without using any new plastic in a costume? That would mean not purchasing polyester fabric, synthetic wigs, plastic masks and other decorative features – items that have become synonymous with the holiday, but are in fact highly polluting to the environment.

A UK-based charity called the Fairyland Trust is on a mission to get people to cut plastic out of their Halloween habits. The group calls plastic "the scariest thing about Halloween" and, together with environmental group Hubbub, conducted a detailed survey that revealed just how much of it is used at this time of year.

They found that, in the UK, Halloween celebrations are responsible for generating 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste from costumes and clothing alone. (That doesn't include decorations.) A total of 324 clothing items were examined, and 83 percent of the material was oil-based. From the report:

"Other research has shown that more than 30 million people dress up for Halloween, over 90 percent of families consider buying costumes, some 7 million Halloween costumes are thrown away in the UK each year, and globally less than 13 percent of material inputs to clothing manufacture are recycled and only 1 percent of clothing textiles are recycled into new clothes."

The solution? Ditch the new plastic.

What's refreshing about this report is that the Fairyland Trust has great advice for building plastic-free costumes. In fact, it hosts an annual event called The Real Halloween and urges participants to enter the 'no-new-plastic Fancy Dress Competition.' Its article on how to dress up for Halloween recommends using "timeless tapestry textiles; adornments like feathers, leaves and jewellery or even ‘stuffed animals’ and the odd bone; hats, from the plain to the slightly insane."

"Some are smart, some are ragamuffin (think Victorian or Oliver Twist), some are tinker-like and quite a few of the men’s outfits combine white shirts and waistcoats. Boots, gloves and hand-warmers, scarves, shawls and capes all make an appearance... Button rather than zips is another tip. Leather and felt also feel ‘timeless’. Boots are both practical and fitting to the occasion and often the weather and conditions underfoot. Another option is the 'circus' look, or even sack-cloth."

I've put this same challenge to my children, refusing to buy cheap disposable costumes for them this year. They're welcome to raid their costume box or make their own, and so far the results have been impressive. One of my kids used cardboard boxes and foil tape to create a suit of armor.

homemade armor

Treehugger / Katherine Martinko

The Fairyland Trust and Hubbub are pressuring retailers to think about this issue, too, and add better labelling to costumes so people understand that what they're buying is essentially single-use plastic.