Columbus officials want Halloween to be greener thanks to a special recycling initiative.
Columbus Public Works is participating in Trick or Trash, a program offered by Rubicon in partnership with the National Wildlife Foundation. After eating all the Halloween goodies, families can place candy wrappers in Trick or Trash boxes at Columbus City Hall. When the box is full, it is sent to a facility that can recycle the wrapper.
The boxes are located at the top of the stairs inside City Hall and are left there until they are full, said Paula Ramadorid, DPW’s sustainability manager.
Candy wrappers have unique problems and cannot be placed in regular recycling bins, city officials said.
“Plastic wrappers are typically made up of multiple materials, making them difficult and expensive to recycle,” said a DPW official. “They are also low-volume products that add technical and economic challenges. Unfortunately, their small size makes them more likely to escape the waste stream and end up in nature as plastic pollution. increase.”
Trick or Trash shows how to tackle these challenges by offering a box specifically for candy wrappers and a special process for recycling the wrappers.
“Trick or trash collected candy wrappers are mailed to our recycling processor,” Rubicon’s website says. “Recyclers sort and clean candy wrappers before the material is shredded and pelletized. The plastic from the candy wrappers makes dog bags for local animal shelters. Paper and aluminum wrappers are recycled the traditional way, and food waste that accidentally ends up in the bin is composted.”
Each box organizer receives a recycling certificate stating the number of wrappers they have contributed to diversion from landfills.
Official trick-or-treating hours for the City of Columbus are today from 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM. Residents wishing to hand out sweets must keep the outside lights on. Also, pedestrian traffic is increasing, so drivers should drive with caution.
According to the Associated Press, Americans eat an estimated 600 million pounds of candy on Halloween. A handful of companies are trying to make recycling all these wrappers easier. They say change is needed.
Mars, maker of Snickers and M&M, has distributed 17,400 candy waste collection bags to US consumers since early October through its website and community events. The bags can be filled with any brand of wrapper and packaging and mailed free of charge to a professional recycler in Illinois. That recycler, her G2 Revolution, molds the packages into pellets and uses them to make dog litter bags.
The bag fits approximately 4 ounces of material. All 17,400 returned equates to over 2 tons of recycled wrappers. But even then, recycling programs only address a fraction of the problem.
“What I want is for this program to actually go away over time, no longer needed, and have a completely recyclable solution.
Mars has partnered with Lexington, Kentucky-based Rubicon Technologies. Rubicon Technologies is a consultant and software provider connecting businesses, local governments and recyclers. Since 2019, Rubicon has run its own program called Trash or Treat, mailing one free box to schools, businesses and community groups to collect candy wrappers for recycling. Yes. Additional or personal boxes are $100. According to Rubicon, this will cover the cost of making the box, shipping it back and forth, and recycling the wrapper. Rubicon plans to ship 5,000 boxes this year.
Mars and Rubicon have not disclosed how much they are spending on their Halloween programs. Rubicon says it pays UPS extra to offset carbon emissions from shipping.
Plastic wrappers are great for candy for many reasons. They’re cheap and lightweight, which reduces shipping costs, said Muhammad Rabnawaz, an associate professor in the packaging department at Michigan State University. It can also be easily modified for different functions. For example, some are coated to prevent candy from sticking.
However, plastic wrappers are a challenge for recycling companies. In many cases, materials such as foil are mixed together and must be separated. Because they are small and fragile, they can easily bypass typical sorting equipment. It should be cleaned to remove grease, oil and other food waste. They are multicolored, so when you mix them together, you get an unattractive brown.
Even if companies try to recycle candy wrappers, they can’t recoup the recycling costs because they produce low-value plastic.
“They have to make a profit. They’re not social workers,” said Brandon Wright, spokesman for the National Waste and Recycling Association, which represents waste management companies.
As a result, many plastic packages end up in the waste. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, packaging accounted for 21% of his landfill waste in 2018.
That’s why it’s important for food companies and individual consumers to fund recycling efforts, said Tom Szaky, CEO of TerraCycle.
A New Jersey-based recycling company recycles candy wrappers in the UK through partnerships with Nestlé and Ferrero. In the United States, the company ships boxes to consumers to collect candy and snack wrappers and return them for recycling. A small box is $86. The large one is $218. TerraCycle says this will cover shipping costs and a multi-part recycling process.
Szaky says TerraCycle has recycled about 40 million candy wrappers worldwide since 2014.
Washington DC conservationist Leah Karrer bought a TerraCycle box in 2020 and collected 5 pounds of Halloween candy wrappers from about 20 neighbors. She raised her awareness of the issue and preferred to support TerraCycle, but she never did it again because the box was so expensive.
“This is not a cost-effective solution for most households, as they can simply throw the item in the trash and pick it up for free,” she said.
This year she ordered a free bag from Mars. This is so that consumers can send a message that they care about plastic waste and want companies to switch to sustainable packaging.
“We can’t hold our customers accountable for solving the mass plastic waste problem,” she said. “Solution is system change.”
Candy makers are spending millions of dollars developing new packaging that is easier to recycle and compost.
Mondelez’s Cadbury introduced more easily recyclable packaging (30% made from recycled plastic) in select markets this year. Mars recently partnered with biotech company Danimer Scientific to develop a compostable package. Hershey has set a goal to make all packaging easily recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2030.
The National Confectionery Association, which represents the candy industry, says federal, state and local governments should also invest in more advanced recycling.
But Janet Dominitz, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, says recycling alone cannot keep up with the amount of packaging waste people create. Dominitz said single-use plastic packaging should be completely eliminated.
“The problem isn’t the number of Halloween candy wrappers, it’s the 365 days a year our infrastructure is set to throw away,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.