The popularity of Halloween is fast growing in the UK with the celebration turning into one of the country’s biggest cultural and commercial events. Statistics show that it is big business for high street retailers with consumer spending for Halloween products having almost doubled since 2013.
Research by the Fairyland Trust, in collaboration with Hubbub, found that an estimated 30 million people dress up for Halloween in the UK, with 90% of families buying their costumes. Great news for retailers and the economy but is the phenomenon having a negative impact on the planet?
How is Halloween impacting sustainability?
The Halloween Plastics Clothing and Costumes Report shows that an average of 83% of the materials in Halloween clothing items are oil-based plastics with the majority of the garment being made out of polyester. In 2017, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation reported that less than one percent of material used to produce clothing, such as polyester, is recycled. Segura’s blog investigates the effects of unsustainable plastic sourcing.
There is nothing scarier than our throwaway culture.Paula Chin, sustainable materials specialist at WWF
The estimated 7 million Halloween costumes that ended up as waste last year equates to 2,079 tonnes of plastic! Put into perspective, this is equivalent to 83 million plastic bottles worth of pollution.
Retailers must take greater responsibility to offer ranges for seasonal celebrations that don’t worsen the already worrying impact of plastic waste on our planet.Trewin Restorick, chief executive of Hubbub
How retailers are tackling Halloween sustainably
Consumers are calling for the labelling of garments to be clearer and more consistent, enabling more informed choices. With the rise of the conscious consumer, retailers are seeking more sustainable materials for their Halloween costumes.
Industry giants Rubies and Smiffy’s have led the way by proactively seeking to source better materials for costumes. Smiffy’s Director Dominique Peckett revealed plans to start introducing both recycled fabrics and recycled fabric made from plastic, from early next year. Their plans extend to addressing their packaging; for example, packing wigs in recycled boxes.
Whilst they admit that the change in process has been a challenge, with sourcing more eco-friendly materials coming at a cost, retailers can tackle this by working collaboratively together and with fabric mills and suppliers to encourage the development of new technologies.
Rubie’s have taken a similar pro-active approach as part of their overall sustainability strategy. Holly Oldham, Managing Director, revealed:
Rubie’s has been working on our own sustainability plan for some time and we can now manufacture costumes that are made from recycled fabrics and trims, bio-degradable glitter, ZDHC prints and bio-degradable packaging…The greater challenge is with whether or not consumers are willing to pay the extra to support sustainable products and this is an ongoing conversation with our retail partners.
Major UK supermarkets have also joined the discussion about sustainable Halloween costumes. A spokesperson from Sainsbury's told Newsround, "our Halloween range is designed to be reused and enjoyed for many years,” demonstrating a focus on quality rather than quantity. Currently, they are working on sourcing sustainable alternatives.
This a strategy also adopted by Tesco, who have explained that their plans to source plastic alternatives on all Halloween products, including fabric trick or treat buckets rather than traditional plastic.
Where plastic features, we have manufactured it to ensure products can be re-used many times.Tesco
The future of sustainable sourcing for Halloween
The ability to gain a clear view of every step within a supply chain; where each component of a product has been sourced, where the product has been made and who has made it, is a real requirement in today’s world.
Having a transparent supply chain enables retailers to work with their suppliers to find more sustainable alternatives for their garments. Alternative materials and processes can lead to products with improved quality and a longer life cycle, better meeting consumer demand for Halloween costumes they can wear again.
With an industry-wide collaborative approach to sustainable sourcing, Halloween can have a less scary impact on the environment.