What should I do with my old pumpkin?

** Related video above: The 2021 Chagrin Falls Pumpkin Roll. **

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) – The toothy grin starts to sink, the wrinkles get deeper, and it’s been days since a candle lit up your jack-o’-lanterns’ hand-carved expression – while it can be tempting to throw it away, experts say, better ways to dispose of your old pumpkin.

Instead, take the pumpkin to a compost pile, use it in a garden or put it in a suitable place as wildlife food.

“If they go to the landfill, they contribute to the landfill gas (emissions),” said Holly Meier, sustainability coordinator for Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

A decomposing pumpkin in a landfill eventually turns into methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide (CO2), according to the US Department of Energy.

Demand for pumpkins in the United States has been rising. All-purpose pumpkin production rose 31% from £ 1.46 billion in 2000 to £ 1.91 billion in 2014, according to the USDA. The agency said the increase reflects the demand for ornamental and food pumpkins.

According to the World Economic Forum, about 900,000 tons of pumpkins are dumped in landfills each year in the United States

Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins in the United States, according to the USDA. The state had 15,900 acres of pumpkins by 2020. Many of these pumpkins end up in pies or similar goods sold as finished goods or ingredients. Some end up like Halloween pumpkins.

The Illinois Extension Service encouraged people to compost their pumpkins this year.

Carved pumpkins are typically not suitable for eating, according to several sources, so it is best to compost them.

But seeds and offal from uncut pumpkins could be used to feed humans and wildlife. Pumpkin can be used for pie, for chili and other recipes. An internet search will result in dozens of recipes and tips for using pumpkins.

Waste management companies also recommend burying the pumpkin in the backyard to provide nutrients for a yard or garden.

The website How to Dispose said large pumpkins can be broken into pieces for burial. Burying pumpkins is one of the oldest known disposal methods, according to the website.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is among several agencies and organizations that suggest using pumpkin seeds to feed birds. Georgia DNR said pieces of pumpkin can be mixed with apple slices or other fruits to feed the wildlife.

But feeding wildlife depends on the pumpkin owner’s farm and other factors, such as whether or not the pumpkin has been sprayed.

Pumpkin owners can also check with a local farmer who can use pumpkins in a garden, in a field or to feed livestock.

Cities around the United States have become creative with pumpkin disposal. Cities in Minnesota and Illinois, for example, have sponsored pumpkin smashing events, where pumpkins are smashed into compost bins.

Cook County, Illinois’ goal is to collect 25 tons of smashed pumpkins at multiple events, according to the Illinois Extension.

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