Pumpkin Waste: Alternatives to the Landfill | The Source Weekly - Bend

Pumpkin Waste: Alternatives to the Landfill

With 1 billion pounds of pumpkins tossed out each year, composting, feeding to livestock and baking new recipes are sustainable alternatives

Pumpkins make decorating for Halloween easy. Grab an orange, plump pumpkin or a quirky, naturally patterned gourd from a local grocery store for a couple of bucks, put it on your stoop or in your windowsill, sit back and relax into the chilling weather of fall. Sounds great, right? No plastic, no big spending and little effort. It is great! But it’s the intentional disposal that people neglect. After pumpkins get mushy and moldy, auto-pilot turns on and people go immediately for the dumpster.

Pumpkin Waste: Alternatives to the Landfill

Over 1 billion pounds of pumpkins are tossed into the landfill every year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It’s hard to fathom.

Living in Central Oregon, these comparisons might help you out. One billion pounds of pumpkins is equal to:

  • 1 billion cans of craft beer or 166 million six-packs
  • 41 million paddle boards (average-sized)
  • 500 million pairs of Birkenstocks
  • 91 million Thule Snowpack 6 ski/snowboard racks
  • 13,000 fully loaded tractor trailers

Landfills aren’t made for natural materials to decompose; they are made to protect the environment and our earth from contaminants. Organic material doesn’t break down the same way that it does in a composting system. Composting is the best way to dispose of pumpkins after the Halloween season has come and gone.

“One big misconception we hear a lot in the community is that people think that all organic material, like pumpkins, just break down in the landfill. Landfills are actually designed to not allow things to break down in a way that composting allows,” said Udara Abeysekera, ReThink Waste manager at The Environmental Center.

Sending organic waste to landfills is detrimental to our environment because it increases methane emissions, according to the EPA. When organic waste is composted, methane emissions are significantly reduced.

Cascade Disposal is among the local providers offering residential curbside composting within city limits for Bend, Redmond and Sisters. Food waste and yard debris are accepted in the composting bins and are picked up every other week. Other providers offer similar yard waste composting as well.

If residents don’t have a yard/food waste bin, pumpkins and organic waste can be taken directly to Knott Landfill Recycling and Transfer Facility to be composted.

“A circular system is what we want to strive for,” Abeysekera said.

Even before thinking of composting, finding creative alternatives can be a way to have some fun, get involved in the community or explore tasty new recipes.

Before pumpkins turn to mush, savor the flavor of the fall and cook something new. Pumpkins are a nutrient-rich vegetable that have high levels of vitamin A, potassium and fiber. Baking them into muffins, bread or pureed soups is an easy and festive way to celebrate the nutrients of the pumpkin. Roasting the seeds in the oven is another classic way to make the most of every piece. Abeysekera wrote in a blog post that if people find their pumpkins looking a bit too far gone to bake into a tasty treat but not ready for the compost yet, try baking some dog treats using any number of online recipes.

Another way to dispose of pumpkins is to feed them to livestock. Chickens love pecking away at the sweet vegetable, and bigger animals eat them right up as a delicious treat. Know someone who has a farm or a couple of farm animals? Ask if they want leftover pumpkins

“Let's keep working on opting for natural materials instead of plastics and things like that, but let’s also just be aware of how to dispose of it in a way that's responsible,” Abeysekera said. “Let’s find alternatives for pumpkin waste instead of sending it straight to the landfill.

Environmental Center Hub
16 NW Kansas Ave., Bend