Skip To Content
Trick or Trash this Halloween weekend! Image: OceanWise.

Trick or Trash: Ottawa resident hosts national cleanup for Halloween

By Aileen Duncan on October 27, 2020

Let’s be honest, when it comes to holidays, Halloween is supreme. When else can you be whatever you want to be, with little restriction except your imagination? However, with COVID-19, our Halloween rituals are changing. Is it safe to trick or treat? And where will I wear my costume?

Image: OceanWise.

Enter a new tradition – Trick or Trash. The idea is simple – it’s a Halloween-costumed cleanup anywhere in Canada where there is pollution. Unfortunately, it’s not difficult to find places across Ottawa or Canada in need of a cleanup. One of the best things about this event is that it’s COVID-safe – you can participate solo, as part of a household group, or lead a neighbourhood cleanup open to the public.

Plastic pollution is pervasive. Last year, the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup mobilized to collect 163,505 kg of trash (18,823 bags!) across nearly 4,000 km of Canadian habitat. Due to COVID, many cleanups in 2020 were cancelled… but we can make up for lost time!

Here’s how to participate:

1. Pick a natural area in or near your neighbourhood.
2. Get your costume ready!
3. Invite your household or friend bubble to join the fun. *
*Don’t forget to follow local limits on how many people are allowed to gather, and please practice COVID safety.
4. Bring supplies – trash bags, recycling bags, protective gloves, hand sanitizer, and other tools.
5. Go out any day on Halloween weekend and spend some time cleaning up trash.
6. Treat yourself! You protected wildlife and ecosystems—you deserve it.

Is anyone tracking impact?

You betcha! Share on Facebook, Instagram, twitter, or TikTok with your costumes and a photo of the trash your group collected, with the hashtag #trickortrash. Work will be going on behind the scenes to compile the impact that this event had. The more detailed your photos of the trash, the better! This helps us understand the impact.

OK I’m in! When do I organize my cleanup?

It’s recommended to do a cleanup during daylight hours to facilitate seeing items that should be picked up. If you’re going to wear a costume, Saturday, October 31 is the best day! However, if the weather is better on other days of the weekend, feel free to do your cleanup on October 30 or November 1.

Where do I do a cleanup?

Not sure where to gather trash? The best cue is your own observations. Have you noticed a neighbourhood park or area in need of a cleanup? Ottawa residents can also participate in one of three options in central Ottawa on October 31 – sign up here!

You can also look here for ideas of sites where trash has been gathered in the past.

Here’s what to look for. Image: OceanWise.

How long should I plan to pick up trash?

It does not need to be long, but it can be as long as you continue to find garbage! It’s totally up to your schedule. As little as 30–45 minutes can make a big impact. If you feel you didn’t gather everything but need to get going, you can always come back to an area at another time.

Is it just trick or trash, or is there a treat?

Oh, we DEFINITELY recommend treating yourself after this. You got outside and protected ecosystems and wildlife! You deserve it. But how to treat yourself? The options are limitless, but Apt613 recommends ordering takeout, buying something artisanal, or otherwise supporting small businesses, which form the foundation of Ottawa’s creativity and vibrancy.

How do I become a citizen scientist?

Data matters, and I commend you for thinking this is important. You can fill out this data card and submit to the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup at Otherwise, post a photo of the trash you collected and tag it with #trickortrash or send to the Instagram DMs of and it will be compiled. Bonus points if you are able to weigh the trash collected.

Where is this event coming from?

This event is a service project I (Aileen Duncan) am putting together as a participant in Ocean Bridge, an Ocean Wise initiative funded by the Canada Service Corps through the Government of Canada. Ocean Bridge brings together 160 young Canadians aged 18–30 to form four national cohorts – Pacific, Great Lakes, St. Lawrence and Atlantic – composed of youth with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences who are passionate about making a difference in their communities through the lens of oceans and waterway conservation. My fellow Ocean Bridge Ambassadors from all across Canada and I work together, receive funding, and learn from experts in marine conservation and education through an online platform and in-person learning journeys to develop service projects related to ocean health and ocean literacy in communities across the country.