Waste Free Halloween Candy

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I was wrong in my post last week… trick-or-treating isn’t canceled in my community. And as we’re approaching everything differently this year, with everyone’s health and safety in the front and center of our minds, let’s talk Halloween candy…

I’m committed to plastic free candy! Individually wrapped candies already feel really wasteful, but when you add on the fact that those multilayer plastic wrappers can’t be recycled… I’m out!

We choose to hand out salt water taffy because we can buy it bulk (in our own container) from our local grocery store. This saves us money, reduces packaging, and we can choose to compost the wrappers!

Here are the options I recommend instead:

1. Hand out homemade snacks. Remember when this was the norm? It might not work for traditional trick-or-treating, but especially since 2020 will be a non-traditional year all around, maybe now is the perfect year to hand out cookies, cupcakes, popcorn balls, or some other homemade goodie. If you go this route, you might need to get creative about your own packaging. I recommend serving them unpackaged or in a paper-based bag (brown paper or waxed paper both work great).

These are the Halloween cookies dreams are made of! Maybe this is the year to slow down and spend Saturday baking and decorating cookies with your kiddos.

2. Choose a recyclable or compostable individually wrapped packaging, including the following:


  • Cardboard. You can find a few common commercial candies (like nerds or junior mints) packaged in a individual serving cardboard box. These boxes are recyclable and a good option.
  • Aluminum foil. Aluminum foil is recyclable IF you roll it up into a bigger ball before putting it in your bin. Again, there are several commercial candies (like hershey’s kisses, rolos, and other non-branded chocolate).
  • Wax paper. We love to buy and hand out salt water taffy from our local bulk store (more on that in a minute) because it comes wrapped in wax paper. Wax paper is biodegradable, which means you can compost it in your home compost. There are two kinds of wax… one that’s vegetable based and another that’s petroleum based. We’ve decided that we’re willing to compost either one (in very small amounts), but you might want to think further about this if you use your compost for growing food.
I love this bowl of candy in individually wrapped cardboard packaging from @wastefreeplanet. If you are looking for inspirational accounts to follow on Instagram, @wastefreeplanet is a great one to check out!


4. Buy in bulk. If you can buy candy from bulk bins at your grocery store, go for it! Bring your own bag and fill it up with your favorite candy! If you don’t have access to a good bulk bin, I recommend choosing the biggest bag you can find. Much of the common Halloween candy at grocery stores across the US comes packaged in a big plastic bag. If you need lots of candy, try buying one BIG bag of it instead of several smaller ones. And reuse the bag (for a trash can liner, picking up after your dog, or something else)

We use these cotton produce bags for our bulk shopping. If you are interested in the details, I have posted them here.

5. Buy local. If you can afford it, many local candy stores offer individually wrapped candies, including chocolates wrapped in foil like the ones pictured below. I recognize this might be a financial burden if you have hundreds of kids trick or treating at your house, but this might be an option to consider if you’re hosting a smaller party (maybe at your kids’ school or this year because you’re looking to embrace a smaller version of your Halloween traditions).

Choose candies wrapped in foil, like the coils and eyeballs in this photo because the wrappers can be collected, balled up together to make it easier on the recycling people/machines, and recycled in almost every municipality!
6. Choose better ingredients. Think about the ingredients IN the candy you’re buying and look for Fair Trade Certified, Rainforest Alliance Certified, or look for RSPO certified palm oil (this stands for the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) as an ingredient. The Fair Trade Alliance has a great website where you can search by brand or commodity (like this guide to buying chocolate). The Rainforest Alliance has a great website too, again with a searchable list of certified products.
After all this thinking and discussion in my house, my kids tend to think about it when they’re reaching for candy while out and about trick-or-treating too! They’ve started to incorporate packing into their definition of “good” Halloween candy. I can’t WAIT to see how this adapts and changes over the years as they grown and learn more along our zero waste journey towards a more sustainable life!

What’s your favorite Halloween candy?

What have you done to make Halloween more sustainable at your house?

Do you have a favorite Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance certified candy you can recommend to me?

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