Spirit Halloween can’t escape plastic and needs to keep the planet in mind

Spirit Halloween and similar Halloween-themed stores are known for selling cheaply made decorations and costumes, making them a common choice due to their convenience and price. 

Most of these items, including costumes and decorations, are made from different types of oil-based plastic and they are meant to be used or worn a handful of times at most. It is a common problem for costumes to tear or for decorations to break. In an interview with The Seattle Spectator, President of Seattle University’s Fashion Club Jayden Breaux-Santiago stated, “After the 70s, the costume market became hyper-commodified as opposed to before — people made handmade costumes — it’s just really bad for the environment. I feel like as young people, we need to understand that these institutions are bad for us, bad for the planet, and overall bad for our future, and that they should be boycotted.”

CapitalOne Shopping estimated the average American would spend $108.24 on Halloween supplies and total spending was expected to hit $12.2 billion this year. With a market this big and these current consumer trends, a look at some of the impacts of this is necessary. 

Encouraging these companies to take steps in a more sustainable direction could help nudge both consumers and corporations in the right direction. 

There are some concerns about the environmental impact from materials used for these products. Since the products are made of plastic, they tend to degrade in landfills slowly and as plastic degrades, it releases microplastics into the environment. Even Halloween-themed decorations can have a negative impact on the environment because animals can get caught in decorations like fake spider webs. 

Some suggest the answer to this problem is to raise awareness for consumers and to encourage them to reuse their costumes or buy them second-hand, but this only addresses part of the issue. This may lead to consumers buying fewer costumes, but this wouldn’t address one of the biggest problems associated with this issue. Furthermore, this solution puts the blame entirely on the consumer and removes blame from the manufacturer. 

Almost everything is made of plastic. Even if someone were to reuse their costume or to wear pieces of clothing they bought at these stores on a weekly basis, microplastics would still be released into the environment every time the item is washed. According to the United Nations Environment Programme, clothing made of plastic-based material such as acrylic, nylon, spandex and polyester shed microplastics everytime they are washed. 

It also wouldn’t be possible to reuse some of these products due to their nature or quality. It is unrealistic to expect someone to reuse something like a fake spider web — which is essentially cotton candy made with plastic instead of sugar. Or to expect someone to wear a costume that is about as durable as a pair of pantyhose.

Something that might work better is pushing for these companies to manufacture their products with more environmentally friendly materials. If these companies believe people are going to use their product once or twice before disposing of it, use materials that won’t still be breaking down 100 years from now. For costumes, this could mean using materials like cotton, linnen, or hemp and encouraging customers to compost the costume after they use it. Decorations like skeletons could be made of bamboo or other materials that are biodegradable. 

It may be unrealistic to expect consumers to change their spending habits completely overnight. Encouraging these companies to take steps in a more sustainable direction could help nudge both consumers and corporations in the right direction. 

The goal, in this circumstance, doesn’t necessarily have to be to fix the problem with one action. Sometimes the best we can do is make the overall impact a little less bad.




Featured photo by Mike Mozart, Flickr