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What Can You Compost From Halloween?

Wondering what Halloween decorations can be composted after the holiday? A truly zero-waste Halloween is unlikely, but composting Halloween items can help reduce Halloween waste.

Read on for more about what Halloween costumes, decorations, candy, and more you can compost to reduce your Halloween waste. There might be more you can compost from Halloween than you initially think!

Halloween generates a heck of a lot of waste. Between single-use costumes, plastic decor, and candy galore, the trash from a single night’s scare might be as frightening as the festivities themselves. A zero-waste Halloween is a real challenge!

However, there are lots of ways to reduce waste around Halloween like swapping secondhand Halloween costumes and dressing up in creative DIY Halloween costumes or upcycling and recycling to make Halloween decorations, or even making a trash pumpkin.

A what? A trash pumpkin?! Oh, it’s a thing. Go learn how to make a trash pumpkin to decorate this Halloween season. You can even turn it into a pumpkin pinata after Halloween and fill it with your Halloween candy!

But one of my favorite ways to reduce Halloween waste is by choosing compostable alternatives. I used to run an organic waste collection company. And I host a series on the blog, Compost Chronicles, all about how everyday families compost at home. Composting is my jam, so you’re probably not surprised.

Have you thought about how to celebrate a low-waste Halloween and what you can compost from Halloween festivities? I bet you can compost more than you think.

In some cases, items are only compostable in industrial facilities; they won’t decompose properly in your backyard bin. Either way, let’s break down what you can put in your Halloween compost cauldron. 

Can I Compost Halloween Decorations?

Fall and Halloween lend themselves well to natural decorations that can be composted after the holidays pass. Jack-o’-lanterns and pumpkins, the most classic Halloween decorations, belong in the compost bin after fright night. 

Things you can compost from Halloween – Decorations

Before trashing your pumpkin, smash it into your compost bin. If you don’t compost, find a neighbor who composts, or use ShareWaste to find a local compost host where you can dump your pumpkin for free. 

In my post about eco-friendly Halloween with Kids, Catherine, a fellow parent with a focus on eco-friendly living, shared how her family simply smashes their pumpkin up a bit and then buries it in their yard. You could bury it in your garden or anywhere in your yard. You may get some pumpkin vines growing next season, or even a pumpkin or two… or not! Nature’s a funny thing. But what a creative idea.

You can also compost lots of other natural Halloween decor like gourds, corn stalks, straw bales, and greenery. If you made a scarecrow for Halloween, all that straw inside is a great boost of browns for your bin.

We’ve seen some cool zero-waste and compostable Halloween decorations, like this set of Halloween witch’s brew decorations made from vinegar, food scraps, kombucha, coffee, and junk mail envelopes. This is so creative, and everything belongs in the compost bin after the holiday.

Quick list of Halloween decorations you can compost (not exhaustive)

  • pumpkins
  • gourds
  • corn stalks
  • straw or hay
  • greenery
  • flowers (dried or regular)
  • wood (without paint or finishes)
  • apples (like the ones in this Halloween tablescape) and other food scraps
  • vinegar
  • kombucha SCOBY
  • coffee grounds
  • junk mail envelopes (without the plastic windows)

Whatever natural Halloween decor you use, be sure it doesn’t end up in landfills. Reuse it. Recycle it. Let it rot. You know the drill.

Sustainable Halloween: DIY Haunted Pumpkin Patch

Halloween decoration ideas with compostable elements

Our resident Halloween queen, Reese, has shared many sustainable Halloween decor ideas, and most of them include lots of elements that are compostable. Be sure to check out her posts for compostable Halloween decoration ideas:

Why compost Halloween decorations

When sent to landfills, organic waste does not decompose properly. The nutrients in the organic matter can’t feed the microorganisms in the soil properly and instead release methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Food waste and other organic matter in our landfills make for a giant environmental mess, and pumpkins contribute to this a lot around Halloween.

If you don’t compost at home or have a municipal compost option, there are lots of compost pick-up services. There are several other similar organic waste collection companies in Philadelphia and many more around the country. If you’re interested, see if something like this exists in your area.  

Organic waste collection companies like WasteWell, Back To Earth Compost, and Mother Compost, Philadelphia organic waste collection companies, even set aside additional organic waste collection days after Halloween to help ensure they can compost all the leftover Halloween fare after the festivities. Pumpkins, gourds, and other fall crop decor make up most of the extra Halloween compostables. 

Can I Compost Halloween Costumes?

Whether you can compost your Halloween costume depends on the Halloween costume you wear. Most single-use costumes are made of polyester, plastic, or some other byproduct of oil. These take hundreds of years to break down in landfills, which is one reason they’re so bad for the environment. It’s also why they can’t go in your compost bin. 

But… and this is a big but… You can compost natural fibers like cotton, wool, and linen. If you nailed dress-up duty this year with a creative DIY costume made from 100% natural fibers, then feel free to send that to the compost bin. 

Compostable Halloween costume elements

  • cotton
  • wool
  • linen
  • cardboard
  • organic elements like leaves or twigs

If it’s still in good condition, it’s even better to reuse it next year, pass it along to a friend, post it in a Buy Nothing group, or find another way for someone else to wear it. If it’s truly toasted though and can’t be worn again, the natural fibers are organic matter. They will decompose and return nutrients to the soil in a well-managed compost process. 

Most makeup, glitter, hair spray, and other costume beauty accessories products are not compostable. These products are often made of plastic or have chemicals in them that are not suitable for compost piles. 

Certain companies make bio-glitter or eco-friendly glitter that they claim can be composted. If you are using glitter to accessorize your Halloween costume, be sure to find out if your glitter is eco-friendly. Unless it’s touted as such, chances are it’s plastic and not compostable. If you’re unsure, assume it belongs in the trash. 

Halloween costume items you cannot compost

  • synthetic fibers (like polyester, nylon, spandex, and other products made from oil
  • plastic
  • glitter
  • most makeup or hair products

Can I Compost Halloween Candy and Homemade Halloween Treats?

Most types of Halloween candy can be composted if you don’t plan to eat them. If we can eat it, it’s generally compostable. As a side note, certain types of meats, dairy products, and oils significantly slow down decomposition in a compost pile or attract animals to backyard compost piles, so most people advise not to add these. Technically they will decompose over time, however, even though they may not be desirable for most residential compost bins. 

Halloween candy, on the other hand, is not particularly terrible for a compost bin. So if you don’t plan to eat it, at least let it feed the biodiversity in the soil and return any nutrients to the Earth. 

However, it’s even better if you find a good home for it instead of letting it rot. You might consider trading with friends for things you don’t love but are their favorites. Alternatively, there are many programs to which you can donate your Halloween candy so others can enjoy it. 

While candy is compostable, most candy wrappers are not compostable. A select few companies like Alter Eco package their chocolate in compostable wrappers, but this is the exception and not the rule. Be sure you don’t put your candy wrappers in the compost bin unless you’re sure they will decompose properly. 

Instead, consider using your non-compostable candy wrappers to make an eco-brick. You could also buy a Terra Cycle zero waste box and share it with neighbors or your child’s school classroom to send your candy wrapper waste to Terra Cycle to be recycled responsibly.

Treats you can compost from Halloween

  • just about any candy (if it’s edible, it’s compostable) – just the candy and not the wrappers unless the wrappers say they are compostable (very few are)
  • compostable wrappers (be sure they say compostable and know if they are backyard compostable or require composting in an industrial facility)
  • organic snacks

Can I Compost Materials From Halloween Games?

Some people stay home for Halloween and make the holiday an event at home. You might play seasonal games like bobbing for apples, pin the stem on the pumpkin, or scavenger hunts for candy around the yard. 

If the materials for your games are organic matter (or something that was once alive or part of something alive), there’s a pretty good chance you can compost it. If your game pieces and accessories are plastic or non-organic matter, then they probably belong in the trash. 

As you’re thinking about what games or activities to do to make your at-home Halloween celebration special, do your best to focus on using secondhand items, can be upcycled or recycled, or can be composted. All of those alternatives will help reduce unnecessary waste from the holiday celebration. 

If you’re interested in composting, I’ve shared a whole bunch of information about how to get started composting at home. Check out the Compost Chronicles interview series from everyday families about how to compost at home

If you want to compost but don’t want the hassle of doing it yourself, sign up for an organic waste collection service! It’s one of the easiest ways to compost your food scraps, and the service does all the heavy lifting and turning to transform your food scraps into healthy nutrients for the Earth’s soil. 

What do you compost from your Halloween celebration? If you have any ideas about things we missed, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

If You Like This Post About What To Compost From Halloween, You Might Also Like

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Jen Panaro

Jen Panaro, founder and editor-in-chief of Honestly Modern, is a self-proclaimed composting nerd and advocate for sustainable living for modern families. To find her latest work, subscribe to her newsletter, Sage Neighbor.

In her spare time, she’s a serial library book borrower, a messy gardener, and a mom of two boys who spends a lot of time in hockey rinks and on baseball fields.

You can find more of her work at Raising Global Kidizens, an online space to help parents and caregivers raise the next generation of responsible global citizens.

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