Working Toward A Zero Waste Halloween

This article originally appeared in the October 2019 edition of the Front Porch Flyer.

Holidays can offer an exercise in creativity and reuse, and an opportunity to connect with neighbors. Here are some ideas to “green” your Halloween:


  • Try to find boxed/paper candy that can be recycled/composted: Nerds, Dots, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, fake bone candies, Glee Gum, Pixie Sticks, etc.
  • Think unconventional: cups of fruit, fun applesauces, raisins, craisins, Halo oranges, etc.
  • Leftover candy loose in boxes or in paper may be composted; the whole thing may go in.
  • Consider taking extra candy to work or asking neighbors if they support a group that collects edible candy so it doesn’t end up in the trash.
  • The Teal Pumpkin Project has a list of non-allergen, non-food treats: If you choose wisely, these can be recyclable non-food treats. Left over items may be donated to the Austin Creative Reuse Center.

Costumes and decor

  • Consider a neighborhood costume swap. Or maybe a block party costume/decor swap. Check Mueller Marketplace, Marketplace, Freecycle, craigslist, etc. to find or get rid of decorations or costumes. Shop/donate at your favorite second-hand store or the Austin Creative Reuse Center.
  • If purchasing new decorations consider metal or wood decorations that may last longer than Styrofoam or plastic and are more forgiving/tougher in storage. If you seal outdoor materials with the proper sealant they’ll last longer in the elements.
  • Store decorations responsibly so they last. Ask neighbors for packing paper or bubble wrap if needed. Temperatures tend to be cooler in the garage or house than the attic.  Items may melt in attics, so plan accordingly.
  • Try to repair burned out light strings before buying new. Replacement bulbs may be available from the manufacturer. Broken light strands may be recycled at the Austin Recycle & Reuse Drop-Off Center.
  • Styrofoam that is painted such as tombstones or skeletons should be trashed if no longer usable. Only paint-free styrofoam can be accepted at the Recycle Center.
  • Spiderweb that is not reusable should be trashed. It is plastic but would clog the recycling machines so is not acceptable in carts.
  • Glow sticks, glow jewelry, etc. cannot be recycled because of the chemicals inside glow items. They might be reusable in craft projects. Otherwise, glow things go in the trash.


  • Real pumpkins, that are not covered in paint, should have their decorations (e.g. stickers, google eyes, etc.) removed and the pumpkin itself may be composted after the holiday.
  • Painted real pumpkins, those covered all over in paint, should be trashed.
  • Styrofoam or plastic pumpkins should be trashed if no longer usable or donatable.

Happy Halloween!