The scariest thing about Halloween is the waste!

The amount of plastic and pumpkin waste set to be produced this year is forming a very dark cloud over the Halloween festivities.

Environmental groups are warning people not to buy Halloween costumes this year and instead, make their own. This is due to the amount of plastic wasted produced every year.

There is also an alarming amount of pumpkin waste set to be recorded as around 10 million are grown each year, 95% of which end up carved into ghoulish faces. Of these 10 million, more than 8 million, the equivalent of 18,000 tonnes of edible flesh, will be discarded.

An estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste is also projected this year, the equivalent of 83 million plastic bottles, as most Halloween costumes are made from Polyester, an oil-based plastic.

An investigation launched by HubBub, an environmental group that create fun and playful new ways to reduce waste and help save money, looked further into Halloween than most people to give advice on how we can enjoy the time of year, as well as help save the environment.

As a result, they have encouraged people to stay clear of buying new costumes and instead either make their own, or re-use ones from previous years, sparking a debate amongst shop owners and retailers. As for pumpkin waste, they have encouraged to keep leftover flesh to cook with in meals such as soup and pumpkin pie.

On the Hubbub website, there is a guide to eating, storingand disposing of pumpkins in a bid to reduce the amount of waste this year, with the majority of households throwing out the finished product, whereas there is a lot to be done with the leftovers.

I spoke to local costume shop worker, Zak Riding, from ‘Aha Ha Ha’ in the Grassmarket, about how the plea to boycott Halloween costumes will effect local Edinburgh shops and whether it will solve the waste problem:

“Anything that goes in the news generally effects small businesses over big ones. We’re usually the hardest hit as it’s easier to combat the smaller problems, over the bigger ones.”

“We tend to attract people who have a high income, as opposed to families with four kids, so it doesn’t affect these people as much – it hits the poorest the hardest.”

Most small local businesses rely on this time of year to make a profit as Zak says “Halloween is the thing that keeps us going.”

When asked about the materials used to make their costumes, Zak admitted most are made from Polyester as there’s no getting around the problem, “our costumes are 95% polyester, but most of the time people buy one a year, the same as parents buying kids a new school uniform every year which is also made from polyester.”

“Once the bigger problems such as renewable energy and reusable cups are solved then maybe replacing the polyester in our costumes with cotton can be looked at – I don’t think boycotting Halloween costumes is the way forward.”

Zak also said that none of the left-over costumes in his shop are thrown away, “We keep everything for next year and recycle what we can, such as the plastic and cardboard packaging.”

This begs the question; what will you be doing with your leftover costume and pumpkin waste this year? check out our article from last week with exciting pumpkin recipes!

Here are some ideas for what to do with your pumpkin waste:

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Plastic road firm opens new factory in Lockerbie

A company that uses plastic waste in road construction has just opened a new factory in Lockerbie; the first of its kind in Scotland.

Plastic recycling firm MacRebur’s new factory takes used plastic waste from landfill and turns it into small pellets which can then be used to create road surfaces; a potential milestone in road production and waste recycling in the UK.

MacReburs roads being laid (Credit: Clay10)

Though the true mix for making these plastic surfaces is a well-hidden secret, the pellets replace a percentage of the bitumen used to bind roads, which helps to form a harder and more durable road surface. This could make the roads up to 40% stronger, and greatly lowers the chance of potholes appearing.

The company has already laid roads all around the world, including several sites in Scotland and England. They also have them located in New Zealand and Australia, with several roads being trialled in Bahrain, the United States and Slovakia.

“This could make the roads up to 40% stronger, and greatly lowers the chance of potholes appearing.”

One of the positives of the plastic roads is that they can be laid anywhere that asphalt is laid, as it uses the same process as regular asphalt.

MacRebur says that each kilometre of road laid uses the equivalent weight of 684,000 bottles or 1.8 million one time use plastic bags. 1 tonne of the mix also contains the equivalent of 80,000 plastic bottles.

The founders of MacRebur; Toby, Nick and Gordon (Credit: Clay 10)


What do these roads do right?

It is clear that this process could potentially revolutionise the way that we deal with our plastic waste, and with the strength of our roads. MacRebur says that the roads “have been extensively tested and monitored for the over the last three years”, which shows that this isn’t some fairytale; they already have the plans in place.

The CEO of the company, Toby McCartney, says he got his idea on a trip to India, where locals collected plastic waste from landfill, placed it into potholes in the road, and used fuel to melt it in place. On his return, and seeing the state of roads in the UK, he decided to take action. If the plan works, the fate of British roads could be altered forever.

The roads have several benefits:

  • The mix strengthens the road, making it last longer and removing those pesky potholes.
  • The material can also be used in other ways, such as pavements.
  • It is cheaper than the conventional bitumen mix.
  • They are better for the environment.
  • They are stronger than regular roads.
  • The maintenance cost of these roads is almost nil.

The location of MacRebur’s factory in Dumfries and Galloway is also important for Scotland, as it can now be the poster boy for the plastic road industry.

MacRebur’s factory is located in Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway (Credit: Clay10)

The Future 

There are some that aren’t quite convinced yet. The main concern with these roads are the long-term implications. With little knowledge about what would happen to them in the long term, at this stage it is hard to say whether they have the lifespan that we are told. Regardless of how much testing you do over three years, you cannot test for weather and car damage over time. The main reason our roads get so damaged is because of over-use and the great British weather.

“The main concern with these roads are the long-term implications. With little knowledge about what would happen to them in the long term, at this stage it is hard to say whether they have the lifespan that we are told.”

Another possible side effect of the roads is the re-use of plastic. There are some that say all we are doing is taking plastic and turning it into another type of plastic, which doesn’t entirely solve the issue of the planet having an influx of plastic in its waters and in a landfill.

Again, India has been trialling plastic roads for many years, and many have been placed around the country. The process is much the same:

(Credit: Interesting Engineering)

In terms of whether it will be coming to Edinburgh, the future hasn’t been decided. Transport and Licencing Media Officer at Edinburgh Council, Rebecca Gordon, said that “Edinburgh isn’t currently trialling this”, but did go on to say that “we are aware that some other local authorities are, and will take note of the outcome of any trials”. She didn’t specify what other councils were carrying out the trials.

MacRebur’s factory has created 12 new jobs, and they are hoping to expand into other area of Europe in the future, a sign that plastic road building is here to stay for the foreseeable.

If you want to hear more about MacRebur’s work, and about the process of plastic road building, we interviewed the company’s Chief Administrative Officer, Nick Burnett.

Have a listen here:



Plastic in our oceans: a local response

With BBC’s Blue Planet II airing this Sunday, Sir David Attenborough has called for a worldwide cutback on the use of plastics.

Currently there are over 8 million tonnes of plastic dumped into the ocean each year, which is equivalent to 2 billion plastic bottles a day. The problem of plastics in our ocean is so great that researchers have found that a third of all fish caught, bought and sold in the UK contain plastic fragments, predominantly at a microscopic level.

With the problem of plastic as great as it is, it seems that the devastation of ocean life is inevitable. However, as Sir David Attenborough states “adopting an optimistic outlook is the only way forward.” In that light, EN4 News have been speaking with local action group Surfers Against Sewage to find out how we can all help protect our oceans.

Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) have been combating plastic in our oceans since their inception in 1990. They organise beach cleaning days throughout the UK, provide cleaning equipment and help to raise awareness. The group recently cleaned Edinburgh’s Crammond beach and EN4 News spoke to event organiser Morven Sneddon to ask her how plastic pollution is impacting Scottish sea life.

She highlighted that whilst Scottish pollution is significantly better than a lot of areas throughout the UK, it is still a significant issue that will only grow get worse in the future if we don’t act to prevent it now:

I think Scotland maybe isn’t as bad as other parts of the world but it definitely is a problem and will become a bigger problem in the future.

Miss Sneddon also said that in order to reduce the level of plastic in our ocean there needs to be a change in our attitude surrounding waste:

People need to care and it’s also about laziness. I walk in Edinburgh and I see people just throwing things on the street. People don’t think to put it in a bin, or recycle, and it’s really not that hard. Especially if there’s bins nearby, and it really comes down to whether that person has the motivation to recycle or to put things in the bin.

The next SAS beach clean is going on today at Portobello beach from 11 am – 4 pm, so if you want to be involved and to get less melamine in your mackerel in the future, grab your best pair of rubber gloves and get stuck in.

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