Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
Michigan produces 79 million pounds of pumpkins every year according to the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE), making the Mitten the fourth largest producer of pumpkins. Unfortunately, many of those end up in landfills where they cannot decompose properly. The U.S. Department of Energy reported that in 2020, only one fifth of pumpkins were used for food, with a majority becoming decorations. Many people still throw their pumpkin seeds and jack-o-lanterns away, even after viral TikToks and public campaigns advocate for composting the signature Halloween gourd.
Landfills are designed to store material indefinitely, not to let trash break down. As NPR has pointed out, the lack of oxygen in landfills makes it impossible for organic garbage like pumpkins to break down normally. Instead, they decompose in an unusual manner that produces methane gas, one of the most potent greenhouse gasses contributing to climate change. Consider an alternative method to get rid of your pumpkins and their seeds.
Pumpkins are an excellent material for composting. There are guides to set up a home composting system like this one from EGLE, which help people begin generating fertile soil and mulch for use in lawn and garden care. If setting up a home composting system sounds like too much effort, there are community composting options across the state. Michigan residents can use the EGLE recycling directory by searching for “food scrap” recycling locations and drop off pumpkins there.
Pumpkins also make good food for animals. Remove any paint, wax, or marker from your pumpkin and leave it out for local wildlife to eat. You can also break the pumpkin apart so that deer can eat it more easily. If you are worried about animals associating your house with food, check to see if any zoos, farms, or animal sanctuaries near you accept pumpkins as donations. Many places will take pumpkins for animal food or even to compost themselves, so that is another option.
Whatever pumpkin disposal method works best for you, try to keep yours out of the garbage this year. Yards and animals can make far better use of your gourd than the oxygen deprived landfill will.