After each Halloween, more than 1 billion pounds of pumpkin get tossed out and left to rot in America’s landfills. Some are thrown away the day after Halloween, contributing to the 30.3 million tons of annual food waste in the U.S. When left to decompose in a landfill, that food waste produces methane gas, a greenhouse gas that’s far more potent than carbon dioxide.
That’s why cities and environmentalists are encouraging residents to find other ways to say goodbye to their gourds. Pumpkins are, after all, a fruit, and uncarved ones can be used as food for people and animals. Composting pumpkins, meanwhile, can capture nutrients and water that can be put directly into parks, gardens, and farms.
One example of such an initiative comes from Illinois, where the recycling and composting nonprofit, Scarce, has been hosting a one-day pumpkin collection after Halloween every year since 2014. The organization has 31 collection sites at public spaces across the state—including churches, libraries, schools, and parks—and, since its first event, it has saved 254 tons of pumpkins from landfills.
The people over in Tucson, Arizona take a whole different approach, jump-starting the decomposition process by flinging pumpkins into the air via giant slings and watching them splatter on the ground. If your city doesn’t have any pumpkin-collecting initiatives like the ones we just mentioned, maybe you should consider setting one up before Halloween comes along next year.