If nothing else, read this…
Halloween waste is a big problem. But in the greater scheme of things, holiday-specific waste is little more than a fingertip on our trash monster (the waste crisis). Each year, the United States produces over 239 million tons of trash – and that number keeps growing. One of the scariest parts of our waste crisis is the toxics that come with producing, using, and disposing of our trash. Yet, our existing laws aren’t enough to stop the cycle of pollution and profit. We need to build stronger, more innovative laws while there’s still time.
A Nightmare in the Making
Freddy Krueger, Chucky, Michael Myers, and Pennywise are some of the most terrifying monsters. At least they disappear when we leave the movie theater or turn off the TV. But there’s a very real monster that waits around every corner, stalks us in the aisles of the grocery store, hides in our kitchen and our closets, and haunts our communities for generations. I’m talking about the trash monster, better known as the waste crisis.
What’s so scary about the waste crisis? Take one look at what’s in our trash and you’ll get a glimpse of the spine-chilling problem. But this monster doesn’t begin or end with the physical junk we throw away – “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply here. Just like any monster, the waste crisis creeps up on you slowly and without warning. It not only haunts your dreams, but your everyday life. And it becomes more dangerous as time ticks by without action.
Halloween may be the season of ghosts, goblins, and ghouls, but this real-life monster is out of control. Fortunately, there are readily available solutions to stop the hauntings once and for all. All we have to do is take action – now.
Candy, Costumes, and Waste… Oh My
Each year, mass-produced Halloween candy, costumes, and décor invade the shelves of big-box stores, pharmacies, and grocery shops, usually months in advance. It’s no accident that we see Halloween paraphernalia as early as July – Halloween is an industry unto itself. This year, Americans are expected to spend an all-time high of $12.2 billion to celebrate the spooky day – up from $10.6 billion in 2022.
With all that spending comes a LOT of waste. In fact, each trick-or-treater creates about a pound of trash – just from candy wrappers. And what are those wrappers made from? Plastic (with a dash of foil or other material here and there). This packaging is basically impossible to recycle, meaning most gets thrown out – destined for landfills and incinerators. Any industry-sponsored pledges or programs to collect wrappers for recycling amount to little more than greenwashing by myth-spreaders like TerraCycle.
Halloween costumes pose a similar problem. Because consumers opt for a new get-up every year, companies making and selling costumes resemble a fast fashion production system. That means using cheap, plastic-based textiles. In fact, a 2019 study out of the United Kingdom investigated 324 Halloween clothing items and found that 83% of the material used was plastic. Unsurprisingly, millions of Halloween costumes also get trashed each year – most having been worn only once.
Halloween is Emblematic of Bigger Waste Issues
There’s no denying that Halloween waste is a big problem. But in the greater scheme of things, holiday-specific waste is little more than a fingertip on our trash monster. The U.S. produces over 239 million tons of trash each year – and that number keeps growing.
Making things worse, our production and waste systems rely heavily on landfills and incinerators – giving into the misconception that our waste “has to go somewhere.” But burying and burning trash will never be the answer to our waste crisis. These methods only make the trash monster that much scarier. Landfills and incinerators damage our climate, pollute our water, poison our air, and disproportionately burden the communities forced to live near these toxic facilities.
And don’t be fooled by plastics recycling. This myth has been touted as the solution to our plastic problem for decades. But of the 51 million tons of plastic discarded in the U.S. in 2021, only 5% was recycled. The other 95% was landfilled, incinerated, or scattered throughout our environment. Why is so little plastic being recycled? Because the material wasn’t designed to be recyclable, and it never will be.
Toxics of Terror
One of the scariest parts of the trash monster is the toxics that come with producing, using, and disposing of our trash. This is especially true of plastic packaging, plastic-based textiles, and other single-use plastic junk. And that’s because plastic is made from fossil fuels.
Every step in the lifecycle of plastic is toxic and polluting. Extracting oil and gas from the earth can contaminate groundwater with an array of chemicals. Refining oil and gas into plastic emits an abundance of foul chemicals into the air. The plastic products and packaging in our lives poison us daily by making their way into our stomachs, our lungs, and our bloodstream. Burying plastic causes the vile chemicals in every piece of plastic to seep out and poison the surrounding soil and nearby water. Burning plastic – by way of traditional incinerators or so-called “advanced recycling” technology – releases harsh chemicals into the air.
All of this – every single step in this horrid process – negatively impacts the health and well-being of people, our environment, and the climate.
Stopping the Trash Monster in Its Tracks
This all probably sounds grim. And that’s because it is. The trash monster, our waste crisis, is terrifying. There’s no way to sugar coat it. But peel back the mask and you’ll see the real villains – fossil fuel giants, plastic producers, chemical corporations, consumer brands, and waste companies. These companies and the people who run them are well aware of the impacts their products and decisions have on people and our planet.
Our existing laws will never be enough to stop the cycle of pollution and profit created by the fiends behind the monster mask. We need to build stronger, more innovative laws.
That’s why Just Zero is working to put the right laws in place that stop pollution before it starts. Enough of the status-quo – it’s time to get creative. That’s the only way to stop the trash monster while there’s still time. Join us today and let’s shut the closet door on this monster once and for all.