Nfld. & Labrador·Waves of Change

There's a way to recycle all your Halloween snack wrappers

Waste management company Terracycle uses specialized equipment to give old candy wrappers a new purpose.

Terracycle accepts most candy, chocolate and chip wrappers through mail-in boxes

Candy is bad for your teeth, and its wrappers are bad for the environment. But it tastes great. (CBC)

Waves of Change is a CBC series exploring the single-use plastic we're discarding, and why we need to clean up our act. You can be part of the community discussion by joining our Facebook group.  

For the environmentally conscious candy lover, there's a way to enjoy your haul a little more this Halloween by giving your snack wrappers a second life.

Waste management company Terracycle specializes in handling hard-to-recycle household items, and that includes the debris left over from delicious Halloween treats.

"It's difficult to recycle candy and snack wrappers in the current system, because they are made of different combinations of plastic, foil and paper, which requires separating at a material level, in order to be recycled," said Veronica Rajadnya, a content manager with the company.

It's not just the material that makes wrappers tricky, said Rajadnya. Often the wrappers are so thin and tiny they can slip through the cracks of most recycling equipment.

"We kind of work around those limitations, to make sure all this material doesn't go to landfill and can see a second life," she told CBC's Newfoundland Morning.

TerraCycle sells boxes that consumers can buy to cover the full cost of shipping and recycling things that aren't accepted in blue boxes, such as coffee pods. (Emily Chung/CBC)

Eat, sort and mail

Terracycle's system works by people mailing in their hard-to-recycle items. Some programs are free, but most — like its snack wrapper service — require an upfront cost to buy and ship a mail-in box, which can be done through the company's website.

After that, the next step is the easiest: eat the treat.

Once the hard work of consuming empty calories is done, collect the empty wrappers into a Terracycle box and mail it off. Chocolate and candy wrappers as well as chip bags are included in the program.

"If they're not dripping wet, or completely covered with melted chocolate, then a quick shake out of the snack wrapper will be good to go," said Rajadnya.

Terracycle's recycling equipment then separates the various materials in the wrappers.

"We melt and pelletize them into little plastic pellets that we actually sell to companies that are using recycled plastic in their production," she said, adding the pellets have been used to make playgrounds, park benches, industrial pallets and a number of other items.

Drop off locations

Even buying the smallest collection box for Terracycle's snack program has a steep price tag: $86. Larger sizes cost up to $231.

But trick-or-treaters living near Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Gander and Corner Brook have another option: CBC stations in those communities are accepting snack wrappers until the end of November.

Those wrappers will then be sent off to Terracycle.

One other plastic-free Halloween option — which may be too late if your doorbell is already buzzing — is buying candies and chocolate that come in cardboard boxes: Junior Mints and Smarties are just two of the brands packaged this way.

And, if you feel like going down an unpopular road, there are always cardboard-boxed raisins.

Join the discussion on the CBC Waves of Change Facebook group, or email us: wavesofchange@cbc.ca.

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