Halloween is quickly approaching. Haunted houses, costumes, candy, and parties fill the end of October. Yet the scariest part of Halloween isn’t the ghosts and goblins, it’s all of the food waste that’s generated after the fun celebrations.

In 2022, Americans spent over $10.5 billion on Halloween. This included costumes, decorations, candy, and finally, pumpkins, much of which ended up being wasted at homes or retailers. Boo! Are you scared yet?

According to the USDA, over 1.5 billion pounds usable pumpkins out of 2 billion pounds total are grown on over 66,000 acres of land in the U.S. Only about 1/5 of the usable pumpkins are processed into pumpkin-based products. The rest are sold as fresh produce, many of which are purchased as jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. In this process, the internal edible parts generally go to waste along with the pumpkin itself after its useful holiday lifespan. Unsold pumpkins are then wasted without fulfilling any purpose, whether for decoration or for food. It is reported that over one billion pounds of pumpkins end up in landfills each year. Now that’s scary!

Candy is another holiday item that goes hand-in-hand with Halloween. Each year Americans spend an estimated $3 billion on Halloween candy, the majority to be given out to 35 million trick-or-treaters. Skittles have most recently been the best sellers for Halloween, followed by Reece’s and M&Ms. Peanut butter kisses – you know the ones with orange and black wrappers – consistently are ranked among the last preferred Halloween candies. And despite October 30th being National Candy Corn Day, Candy Corns are the most polarizing Halloween candy, with 49% of those surveyed saying they like them and 44% saying they don’t particularly like them or find them “gross.”

After Halloween, it’s estimated about $400 million worth of purchased candy is wasted. Frightening, isn’t it?

All of us – customers, retailers, and manufacturers – have important roles to play in reducing the amount of Halloween candy and pumpkins wasted. A few general tips:

  • Customers:
    • Purchase candy favorites that will get eaten. Give it some thought before you purchase those peanut butter kisses.
    • Celebrate National Candy Corn Day with those who share a love for the tiny kernels of sweet deliciousness, rather than giving them out to trick-or-treaters.
    • Plan for use of every part of the pumpkin and then for options to recycle at end of life.  Read more for tips on eliminating pumpkin waste. https://earth911.com/living-well-being/leave-no-waste-pumpkins/
  • Manufacturers and Retailers:
    • Package candies as “seasonal” merchandise, rather than for a specific holiday, that can be sold for an entire season.
    • Forecast sales of candies and pumpkins so more are sold overall.
    • Execute a planned discount and donations strategy for post-holiday unsold candy. Coordinate with food banks and pantries to ensure candy will be donated.
    • Recycle unsold, un-donatable pumpkins and candy items into products such as valuable animal feed. Read more the various ways to recycle the unsold food items into valuable products.


Did you know? Denali provides services to recycle and depackage unsold, inedible food items and other organic byproducts into a variety of products including candies and pumpkins! Learn more.


“Halloween Spending Set to Reach Record Levels,” Newsweek. October 2023.

“Pumpkins,” Agricultural Resource Marketing Center. August 2021.

“15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Halloween Candy Consumption in the U.S.,” Insider. October 2021.

“Why Do We Trick Or Treat?” Farmers Almanac. September 2022.