9 Ideas for Plastic-Free Halloween Treats

Carved jack-o-lanterns on a stoop

O'Brien Productions / Getty Images

When my kids dump out their trick-or-treating loot at the end of Halloween night, the sight of so much plastic is more demoralizing for me than all the sugar. I know the sugar high will come and go, but the plastic will stay forever – if not in our house, then somewhere on our planet, and isn't it all the same thing anyway?

I do not want to be a total environmental downer when it comes to Halloween treats, so I'm not about to ban my kids from partaking in the glorious candy extravaganza, but I have done some research and discovered that there are a number of good plastic-free candy options out there. I encourage you to consider stocking up on some of these instead of defaulting to the plastic-wrapped usuals.

1. Foil-Wrapped Chocolates

peanut butter cups in a bag

Treehugger / Katherine Martinko

I went to Bulk Barn (a Canadian chain that allows reusable bags and containers) and was delighted to discover small Reese's peanut butter cups wrapped individually in foil. Problem instantly solved! I bought a big bag of those and that's what I'm going to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Foil is recyclable and inside (I had to check, of course) is a waxed paper liner. There are other kinds of foil-wrapped chocolates, too, like those orange Halloween-themed eyeballs and Hershey's kisses.

2. Boxed Candies

A surprising number of candies come in paper boxes, e.g. Smarties, M&Ms;, Nerds, Dots, Milk Duds, Glossette chocolate-covered raisins or peanuts, Junior Mints, Popeye Candy Sticks, Chewy Lemonhead, Whoppers, and more.

3. Paper-Wrapped Candies

Pixy Sticks and waxed paper-wrapped toffees, such as Bits-O-Honey, are good options. Some mini chocolate bars come wrapped in paper, such as these ones by Equal Exchange. You might be able to find Glee Gum or another variety without plastic packaging. Another idea is to hand out paper sachets of hot chocolate mix, many of which come in chocolate bar flavors.

4. Loose Treats

Pile of candy corn
Marina Pierre / Getty Images

This isn't an ideal option for handing out to strangers, but perhaps you live in a small or rural town where you know almost everyone and would feel comfortable handing these out. Buy loose candy purchased in bulk that you've repackaged in small paper bags. Gummy worms, sour keys, candy corn, and sour patch kids would all work well for this. If you're ambitious, make a batch of homemade caramel corn, a Halloween favorite in my family.

5. Fancy Chocolates

If you are willing to fork out some real money for high-end chocolate (and there are good reasons to do so, but this is not the time for me to go off on a tangent about the importance of fair-trade and the problem of palm oil), there are some producers that sell their bars and truffles in compostable packaging. Alter Eco is one example, but walk into any candy store and you'll be able to find lots.

6. Friendship Bracelet Kits

Pile of colorful friendship bracelets with different patterns
Tatiana Terekhina / Getty Images

This idea came from TreeHugger's comments moderator, Tarrant, who said her kids got them one year and they were a hit. Wrap embroidery floss around paper and include instructions.

7. Beverages

Kids love sugary drinks, which is why Kathryn Kellogg of Going Zero Waste suggested cans of soda, made from recyclable aluminum. (If you're worried about BPA, stay away.) Glass bottles of lemonade or iced tea are another option and I doubt the risk of breakage is as high as some people might assume; my kids treat their candy bags like a newborn baby.

8. Fruit

I read about one person who sets out a bowl of "Poison Apples" and the kids go for it first thing, delighted by the morbid description. If you're crafty, make little orange witches by hot-glueing a black construction paper hat onto an orange and making a face out of cloves, chocolate chips, paper bits, or marker.

9. Bamboo Straws

This idea comes from Life Without Plastic, and while it may not provide a great deal of entertainment in the moment, it's bound to get used in the end. Kids never grow tired of straws and to have their own special one might be fun.

This list is hardly exhaustive, but the point is to show that it is possible to hand out plastic-free treats. You might feel like a tiny fish in a giant sea, but it's worth starting somewhere.