Halloween costumes will create 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste in the UK this year, environmental charity warns

'There is nothing scarier than our throwaway culture'

Sarah Young
Friday 18 October 2019 10:26 BST
Schoolgirls petition McDonald's and Burger King to remove plastic toys from meals targeted at children

An estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste – equivalent to 83m bottles – will be generated from Halloween costumes sold by leading retailers in the UK this year, according to a new report.

An investigation by environmental charity Hubbub into costumes sold by 19 supermarkets and retailers – including Aldi, Argos, Asos, Amazon, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Tesco – found that 83 per cent of the materials used to make the outfits were polluting oil-based plastics likely to end up in landfill.

Among 324 separate items, the researchers found that polyester was the most common plastic polymer used to make the costumes, accounting for 69 per cent of all materials, while cotton made up only 10 per cent.

The research also found that more than 30m people in the UK dress up for Halloween with more than 90 per cent of families opting to buy costumes.

Hubbubs findings add that seven million outfits are thrown away each year, with only a tiny proportion sent for recycling.

Hubbub has teamed up with the Fairyland Trust, a family nature charity, to urge consumers to choose more environmentally friendly options this Halloween or make their own costumes.

Chris Rose, co-founder of the Fairyland Trust, said: “The scariest thing about Halloween now is plastic.

“More costumes are being bought each year as the number of people participating in Halloween increases.

“Consumers can take action to avoid buying new plastic and still dress up for Halloween by buying from charity shops or re-using costumes, or making their own from non-plastic materials.”

Trewin Restorick, the chief executive of Hubbub, added: “These findings are horrifying. However, the total plastic waste footprint of Halloween will be even higher once you take into account other Halloween plastic such as party kits and decorations, much of which are also plastic, or food packaging.”

Hubbub and The Fairyland Trust are also calling for better and more consistent labelling on Halloween costumes as it suggests many consumers do not realise that materials such as polyester are plastic.

A 2017 study by environmental charity the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) found that less than one per cent of material used to produce clothing, such as polyester, is recycled.

Laura Balmond, project manager of Make Fashion Circular at EMF previously told The Independent that synthetic fabrics account for 63 per cent of the material input for textiles production.

Balmond added that plastic-based fibres negatively impact because they are not biodegradable and rely on fossil fuel extraction.

Speaking of the recent findings, Paula Chin, sustainable materials specialist at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said: “There is nothing scarier than our throwaway culture.

“By reducing the amount of plastic we buy, embracing reusable items and taking responsibility for our waste, we can make sure Halloween is suitably spooky and sustainable.”

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