Equivalent of 83m plastic bottles in often throwaway outfits sold by leading retailers.
An estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste – equivalent to 83m bottles – will be generated from throwaway Halloween clothing sold by leading retailers in the UK this year research suggests.
An investigation by Hubbub, an environmental charity, into the seasonal outfits available from 19 supermarkets and retailers – including Aldi, Argos, Asos, Amazon, Boden, John Lewis, M&S, Next, and Tesco – found that 83% of the material used was polluting oil-based plastic likely to end up in landfill.
Among 324 separate textile items, the most common plastic polymer found was polyester, which accounted for 69% of all materials, while cotton made up only 10%.
Hubbub has teamed up with the Fairyland Trust, a family nature charity, to urge consumers to choose more environmentally friendly options.
Chris Rose, of the Fairyland Trust, said: “The scariest thing about Halloween now is plastic. More costumes are being bought each year as the number of people participating in Halloween increases. Consumers can take action to avoid buying new plastic and still dress up for Halloween by buying from charity shops or re-using costumes, or making their own from non-plastic materials.”
There are also calls for manufacturers and retailers to rethink their product ranges for seasonal celebrations. As well as costumes, consumers are tempted with plastic-based accessories including synthetic wigs, hats, masks, buckets, party decorations, glittery makeup and even outfits for dogs.
The research found that more than 30 million people in the UK dress up for Halloween and more than 90% of families consider buying costumes. Seven million outfits are thrown away each year, and only a tiny proportion are recycled.
Hubbub and The Fairyland Trust are also calling for better and more consistent labelling on such clothing as many consumers do not realise that materials such as polyester are plastic. A 2017 study found that less than 1% of material used to produce clothing is recycled into new clothing.
Trewin Restorick, the chief executive of Hubbub, said: “These findings are horrifying. However, the total plastic waste footprint of Halloween will be even higher once you take into account other Halloween plastic such as party kits and decorations, much of which are also plastic, or food packaging.”
David Bolton, a policy adviser on retail products at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Retailers are working hard to reduce unnecessary plastic use; however, the materials used for children’s costumes are chosen for safety. Retailers take child safety extremely seriously and this is why we support the current choice of materials.”
The Guardian approached several of the companies named in the report for comment. A spokesperson for M&S said: “All M&S kidswear is designed to be hand-me-down quality, including fancy dress costumes which can be reworn, passed on to friends and family or ‘swopped’ through our partnership with Oxfam. Across our business we’re tackling plastic usage by reducing, reusing and recycling.”
A Tesco spokesperson said: “We’ve removed more than 4,000 tonnes of plastic from 8,000 products so far and have made clear that there is no place for materials that are not recyclable. In our Halloween range we have moved to alternative materials wherever possible, such as fabric trick or treat buckets and sustainably sourced paper-based tableware.”
Amazon declined to comment.