Normally, there’s nothing better than finding an unexpected piece of candy, especially around Halloween. But for Shannon Jones, Frost Science’s conservation programs manager, and the Museum Volunteers for the Environment (MUVE) team, candy has come to represent a growing problem with single-use plastic. “We train our volunteers to remove macro marine debris from restoration sites at Virginia Key North Point and tracked the type of trash. Of the 500,000 pieces of plastic debris MUVE collected last year, one of the most common types was food packaging and wrappers,” Jones explains.
Unfortunately, MUVE’s experience is not unique. In 2019, candy and snack wrappers were the top item found on beaches during the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) event. During a typical Halloween, Americans will buy over 300,000 tons of candy, making the upcoming holiday season a particularly vulnerable time for marine debris. In addition to being unsightly, this debris can harm wildlife, disrupt ecosystems and even contribute to flood risk.
Thankfully, Jones and the team at Frost Science are helping to reduce single-use plastic while educating the public.
This year, Frost Science is partnering with Loggerhead Marinelife Center’s Unwrap the Waves program. This nationwide program collects Halloween candy wrappers to recycle them and prevent them from entering our oceans. In the three years since the program started, Unwrap the Waves has recycled over 465,000 candy wrappers – approximately the length of 250 football fields. By recycling candy wrappers, Loggerhead Marinelife Center and their partners hope to keep additional plastic out of landfills, where it can easily enter our oceans.
Frost Science will be collecting candy wrappers from guests attending our 5th Annual Spooky Science Monster Mash event on Saturday, October 30, and from more than a dozen local schools. These schools are competing with students from across the country to collect and recycle the most candy waste. We will also be accepting donations from community members that want to avoid having their Halloween waste end up in landfills.
While reducing ocean plastic is a crucial step for the ongoing health of our marine ecosystems, Jones also recognizes the importance of efforts like MUVE and Unwrap the Waves in reaching the broader community. “Citizen science and public volunteer efforts not only make a positive impact for our planet, but also educate guests on how their actions impact the world around them and inspires participants to practice sustainable habits.” Jones hopes that everyone who participates in this program will feel empowered to take the next steps towards an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Thanks to the efforts of MUVE and similar groups across the country, the scariest part of Halloween doesn’t have to be its impact on the environment.
Want to help out? You can bring your bags of clean and empty candy wrappers to drop-off sites located at the front entrance of Frost Science through Thursday, November 11, and visit Unwrap the Waves to learn more about ways to buy sustainable Halloween candy. MUVE is also actively recruiting for new volunteers to help with ocean ecosystem clean-up efforts. We appreciate you doing your part to help keep South Florida’s unique ocean ecosystems healthy.