Turn Plastic Waste Into Spooky Halloween Decorations

old halloween pumpkins are stuffed into blue curbside recycling bin

Melissa Kopka / Getty Images

You'll be surprised at the decorative potential contained within the recycling bin.

Last week I wrote about the importance of opting for a plastic-free Halloween costume, or at least one that does not use any new plastic. But now we need to talk about the issue of Halloween decorations, as it, too, is a major contributor of non-recyclable plastic waste. Just think of all the fake spiderwebs, the plastic pumpkins, the Styrofoam tombstones and more.

One clever approach is to make your own Halloween decorations using plastic waste products. Raid the recycling bin (or even the sidewalk on your way home from work) for materials that have great potential for spookiness. Jordana Merran of the Ocean Conservancy offers some great ideas and photos of what's possible.

Bottle caps – which are among the five deadliest marine debris items, according to the Ocean Conservancy – make great creepy spiders, after they're painted black and have some pipe-cleaner legs attached. You can also make eyeballs with them. White plastic bags can be transformed into spooky ghosts and mummies when stuffed and bound together. Stuff either with extra bags or use a plastic bottle from the recycling bin as a form.

plastic bag lady

Courtesy of Jordana Merran / Ocean Conservancy

If you have straws or stir sticks kicking around the house or office, Merran suggests using them to make "alien antennae, ogre teeth or other spooky accessories." Plastic clamshell and takeout food boxes make great bats or "great monster mouths, while larger round or square lids can be painted into jack-o-lanterns, Frankensteins, or other fearsome faces—perfect for hanging on banisters or wearing as a mask."

Of course, none of these suggestions mean that you should go out and buy the plastic necessary to make these decorations. The point is that much can be done with what's already on hand, or found in a recycling bin at work or school, or collected from outside. There needs to be a movement away from buying new plastic, as a form of protest against an industry that we know is harmful to the planet and wildlife health.