Post-Halloween pro: your belly is full of sugary treats; con: you’re stuck with a plastic jack-o-lantern full of empty candy wrappers.
While those little wadded-up pockets of goodness may seem insignificant, consider the waste on a larger scale – in 2008 alone, Americans consumed 23.8 pounds of candy per capita. Plus, Halloween is the biggest time of the year for sweets as about 5 percent of all candy consumed for year occurs on Oct. 31 and the week after, according to a USA Today report.
But while commonly recycled materials like aluminum, plastic and paper make up a bulk of this type of packaging, candy wrappers are actually extremely difficult to recycle because of their size, weight and material mixture. These three factors greatly decrease the economic value of recovery, and many waste management companies are less likely to collect and transport.
Yes, a viable recycling option for candy wrappers is sometimes hard to find, but we didn’t say it was impossible.
Last year, we interviewed Joe Hensel, CEO of Polyflow, a recycling company that boasts an innovative technology that allows the mixing of “dirty plastic” and rubber waste. Hensel says his facilities will have the ability to turn mixed and unsorted waste, including all candy wrappers and potato chip bags, into products like gasoline and diesel fuel, adhesives, household and industrial cleaners and paint.
While Polyflow’s technology may be an industry insider’s peek at good things to come (and proof that candy wrapper recycling can be done), the company operates on a business-to-business model and isn’t an option for the general consumer.
For the everyday sweet-eater, Terracycle is your best bet. Founder Tom Szaky made the once-kitschy term “upcycling” into a legitimate process, and since its humble beginnings in 2001, Terracycle has become one of the No. 1 upcycling companies in the U.S.
We’ve seen Szaky and his team create usable (and fashionable) materials for the home, garden, school and office from almost-impossible-to-recycle items like Capri Sun pouches, Skittles bags and Starburst wrappers, just to name a few.
Plus, the company has partnered with über candy giant Mars, Incorporated to divert wrapper waste from landfills and pay you for your trick-or-treat waste. All you have to do is sign up for one of Terracycle’s 28 recycling brigades, ranging for everything from cookie wrappers to cell phones. Each type of product varies in value. For example, chip bags are worth only 2 cents each, a discarded cell phone nets 25 cents.
The good news is that getting started is easy, and once you’re ready to send in your stuff, you can download a pre-paid UPS shipping label. Here’s the catch: getting your office, school or neighbors on board is key, as minimum return suggestions range between 25 to 100 pieces (that is unless you had a super-successful trick-or-treat outing and can meet the minimum yourself. For that we say, hats off to you).