Hubbub’s #SewSpooky campaign is using the UK’s growing desire to celebrate Halloween to highlight the impact clothing has on the environment. An estimated £510 million was spent on Halloween in 2017, and 39 million were expected to dress up for Halloween. The majority of costumes will only be worn once, resulting in approximately 7 million costumes being dumped once celebrations are over.

The UK’s passion to get spooky is burning a hole in our pockets leading to Halloween costumes becoming the single use accessory of the season. This is contributing to the growing amount of clothing that is being bought for a limited period of time before being chucked.

Hubbub’s call to get #SewSpooky is encouraging more people to re-ware and swap old costumes instead of buying them new. This follows Hubbub's research in 2017 which suggests that only 14% of people opt for the home-made option at Halloween. Our short videos provide inspiration on how to bring and outfit back from the dead and demonstrate that it is quick and easy to make DIY costumes with leftover materials found at home.

Equally concerning is that according to research carried out this year by the Fairyland Trust 90% of costumes are made of plastic – mainly polyester. When washed these synthetic fabrics shred tiny pieces of plastics which end up either dumped on the land in sewage sludge or finish up in waterways. It has been estimated that one 5kg wash could release 6 million microplastics.

It is believed that washing textiles is the biggest source of microplastics in our oceans, contributing over one third of ocean plastics – 16 times more than microbeads from cosmetics. The growing number of cheap Halloween costumes are adding to this problem. Recent research suggests that this could have serious implications.

For the first time scientists in Vienna have discovered microplastics in samples of eight people from Europe, Japan and Russia. Their study suggests that the tiny particles may be widespread in the human food chain.

This was a very small study that hasn’t yet been peer reviewed so more research is required. However, we know that microplastics have been found in a variety of items such fish, salt and insects and there has been concern that it would only be a matter of time before evidence emerged that it had entered the human food chain. The impact of this on human health is unclear. Whilst microplastics could pass through our bodies with no lasting damage, this might not be the case.

Hubbub will be keeping close tabs on microplastics. Our #WhatsInMyWash campaign has been created to raise consumer awareness and to encourage people to take better care of clothing.

Currently there is a limited amount that consumers can do so in collaboration with industry, we are starting to explore the steps that they should be taking. The fashion industry is key and Hubbub believes they should get a deeper understanding of the problem by looking at:

  1. Getting a deeper understanding of the problem. How many microplastics are being released by their different fabrics particularly at the first wash?
  2. How can they better capture microplastics at point of production? Most clothing is manufactured in developing countries which tend to have less sophisticated water filtration systems – this will need to change.
  3. How can they better capture microplastics? This will involve new levels of collaboration with white good manufacturers, the water industry and perhaps detergent manufacturers.
  4. They need to encourage consumers to value their clothes more, to buy clothing that lasts and to take better care of what they purchase.
  5. Finally, and most challengingly, they need to find a new business model that that isn’t driven by an increasing addiction to fast fashion.

The microplastics debate will build as people understand that it is these ‘hidden’ plastics that have a more detrimental impact on the environment than the more obvious straws and cups. The fashion industry needs to respond rapidly whilst campaigns such as #SewSpooky are designed to encourage all of us to think differently about buying cheap clothes for short periods.