What Aussies are getting wrong when celebrating Halloween

Forget vampires, werewolves, ghouls and goblins, the scariest thing about Halloween might be something much more real.

It’s plastic!

Plastic pumpkins, plastic skeletons, plastic spiders, and the much-hated plastic cobwebs that often blow away and disintegrate over the months leading up to Christmas.

Left - A child dressed up as a ghost in a store. Right - Close up of Halloween decorations on a fence, including a skeleton.
Experts are concerned about the proliferation of plastic during Halloween celebrations. Source: Getty / Supplied

Celebrating Halloween is an established practice in the United States, so traditional decorations like carved pumpkins are widely used albeit along with plastic.

In Australia, where the occasion is relatively new, cheap supermarket-bought, factory-pressed decorations are all the rage. Even costumes are often flimsy and not designed to last longer than an evening.

Who is to blame for plastic Halloween decorations?

Jeff Angel from the Total Environment Centre has successfully campaigned against other retail-driven issues like single-use plastic bags.

Now he’s noticing a whole new plastic problem and he wants to see the “big retailers” putting pressure on manufacturers to become more environmentally responsible.

“I also have noticed the extra plastic adorning fences and entrances of houses, just sitting there as well as fragmenting into the environment,” he told Yahoo News Australia.

“And of course, single-use Halloween merchandise has proliferated.

“It's just typical of the plastic marketing industry that we have seen grow over the decades to not give a jot of concern about the waste.”

Left - homemade pumpkin carving. Right - a black plastic pumpkin on the floor.
While pumpkin carving is popular in the United States, plastic is the choice of most Aussies. Source: Sophie Chandler / Supplied

Are plastic Halloween cobwebs a problem?

In the lead-up to Halloween, a post has gone viral, warning specifically about the impact of cheap plastic cobwebs that people hang on their fences.

“Please don't use this stuff to decorate for Halloween! Fake spiderweb decorations kill birds,” it reads.

“It's strong enough to snare an owl and takes a terrible toll every October on small birds. It's also deadly to moths, butterflies and bees.”

A house decorated with plastic cobwebs.
Plastic cobwebs are single-use and usually synthetic. Source: Jerry Minor

Yahoo News Australia reached out to a number of leading wildlife rescue groups across Australia, none of which had any direct knowledge of the webs causing an issue.

Despite this, any synthetic product introduced into the environment has the potential to harm native birds and animals.

Last year, NSW-based rescue group WIRES reported plastic pieces, nylon and washing machine lint were being found in bird nests.

Unlike in North America when Halloween is an Autumn holiday, it falls during Spring in Australia, right at the time when birds are nesting and raising young.

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