An estimated 600 million pounds of Halloween candy was handed out on October 31st. Each miniature or full-size candy is individually wrapped in a plastic wrapper. While that small wrapper may seem insignificant to you, add them all up. 600 million candy wrappers, plus the plastic bags they come in and the plastic bags some trick-or-treaters collect candy in builds up quickly.
Imagine these 600 million+ bags in area landfills or in garbage trucks traveling the country and city roads. Winds take them into streams that feed into rivers and eventually the ocean. Fish, turtles, and other aquatic creatures ingest them. If they get caught in trees or rocks, they can sit for up to two decades slowly degrading, leaching plastics into the soil and groundwater. It’s a big problem. What can be done to prevent this problem?
The Problem With Candy Wrapper Recycling
When you recycle plastic candy wrappers, they’re often covered in melted chocolate, greasy peanut butter, and other oils. Even when recycled, the oils lower the quality of that plastic. Plus, they come in a variety of bright, cheery colors and cannot easily be sorted. When they get mixed together and melted down, those colors all meld and become nothing more than a dull brown.
As you end up with poor-quality plastic that’s a bland color, it’s really not useful in many situations. You can’t easily dye brown, so any items you make with it have to be brown. The cost to recycle is higher than the value of recycled plastic. Unfortunately, we’re in a world where money matters. Recycling was initially established to keep items from landfills, but it soon required a balance of making enough money to cover the costs of employees, electricity bills, recycling trucks, and the machinery needed to process recyclables.
It’s cheaper to throw out candy wrappers than recycle them, but that doesn’t make it right. It’s time to look at what you should be doing. It may be too late to get started this year, but what about next year?
Recycle Plastic Candy Wrappers and Plastic Films Responsibly
Several programs are available to ensure candy wrappers are recycled instead of thrown out. Here are some of the ways to recycle candy wrappers and bags.
- Order a Candy Wrapper Recycling Box
Are you an educator or community center leader? Rubicon Technologies has free recycling boxes. Order the free candy wrapper recycling box and have a postage-paid way to collect candy wrappers and mail them to a recycling center. It keeps candy wrappers from area landfills.
It’s estimated that if everyone put their wrappers in a free box or recycling mailer and returned them to a company that can recycle plastic candy wrappers, it could lead to around two tons of wrappers getting recycled properly. That’s two tons of plastics kept from landfills. That’s a little under the size of a giraffe.
- Get Free Recyclable Trick-or-Treat Candy Bags and Mailers
Next year, watch Mars Wrigley for free recyclable trick-or-treat bags. Children collected candy in these recyclable bags on Halloween. At home, they fill the bag with candy wrappers and seal it up to mail to a plastics recycling company to keep the wrappers out of the landfill. People claimed the free bags quickly, so you want to be first in line next year!
What happens to the plastic candy wrappers that are recycled? They’re pelletized and reused in products like pet waste bags. It ends the cycle one one-and-done. You embrace a circular economy where items get more than one use and reduce the demand for raw materials used to make the candies’ plastic wrappers.
- Upcycle Your Wrappers
Turn candy wrappers into art. Decoupage is a popular hobby, and it’s one that you can turn into a money-making opportunity. Glue candy wrappers to a dollar store vase and then use shellac to set them. Use a variety of colors to create artistic images or aim for themed vases and works of art using wrappers from one specific company.
You can use wrappers and shellac to cover a wooden spoon and create a unique tabletop or set them on concrete stepping stones and protect them from the weather with resin. Be inventive and you’d be surprised how popular your creative designs will be at craft sales and in online stores like Etsy.
- Pay to Recycle Them
This isn’t an option for everyone, but it’s worth considering if you can afford it. You can purchase a postage-paid candy wrapper recycling box from some plastic recycling companies. Stuff it full of your plastic candy and snack wrappers and mail it postage paid for proper recycling. Split the cost with other families and you don’t have to spend much. Search online for these boxes and find the one that best fits your budget.
- Purchase Candies Made With Recycled or Compostable Plastic
When possible, be part of the circular economy by supporting the candy companies that use recycled plastic in their candy wrappers. Cadbury is one of them. The recycled candy packaging at Cadbury contains 30% recycled plastic.
Mars is working with a biotech company to create compostable candy wrappers. As soon as it’s available, this is a great way to keep candy wrappers out of the landfill. Hershey is working on programs where its candy wrappers will be compostable, reusable, or made from recycled plastic by 2030, so it’s worth checking for Hershey updates from time to time.
- Talk to Your Town
Ask your town if they participate in any candy wrapper recycling programs. While you may not qualify for free boxes for schools or community programs, your town may have them available. You just need to ask. Even if they have no plans this year, you can get them to start thinking about getting a community box for next year.
- Purchase Candies in Paper Wrappers
Buy in bulk and put them in small paper bags. Many bulk candies come in wax-coated paper wrappers. If you can’t find small paper bags, you could get cheesecloth and create small parcels of candies that are more environmentally friendly.
Or, look for candies that come in packaging that can be recycled, Miniature M&Ms in plastic tubes may be recyclable in your area. Candies like Necco Wafers, Milk Duds, Junior Mints, and Nerds come in boxes and wax paper.
- Don’t Stop at Candy Wrapper Recycling
Small measures like this are needed to help save the planet from excessive and unnecessary waste. In addition to being proactive and getting free recyclable trick-or-treat bags for candy wrappers, start recycling your other plastic films at drop boxes in your grocery stores.
Collect and recycle plastic shipping envelopes, bubble wrap, plastic overwrap on items like toilet paper, and dry cleaning bags. You can recycle plastic cereal bags, the plastic bags bakery bread comes in, and plastic grocery bags. Plastic Film Recycling offers a full list of the plastic film and bags you can recycle rather than throw out.
A little thought into the items you purchase and how you dispose of the wrappers and containers goes a long way. Even in rural areas, recycling options exist. Sometimes, you simply need to ask for guidance. Recycle Nation has an online guide that makes it easy to find where your nearest recycling center is located.