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How to Dispose of Pumpkins (Because, Oops, You Shouldn’t Just Toss ‘Em in the Trash)

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Pumpkin carving season is upon us and that lit up jack-o-lantern you crafted is sure to look like a work of art…until it turns into a smelly pile of mush, that is. Needless to say, pumpkins are perishable—and when one reaches its expiration date, the obvious thing to do is to toss it in the trash, right? Well, it turns out that throwing old pumpkins in with the rest of your garbage may not be such a good idea after all. If this revelation has you wondering how to dispose of pumpkins the right way, we’ve got a few eco-friendly suggestions to help you get rid of your gourd before it turns into something truly scary.

But First, Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Throw Pumpkins in the Trash

You already know that lightbulbs, electronics and batteries don’t belong in the garbage…but pumpkins? Yes, believe it or not, tossing a pumpkin in with the household trash is problematic for several reasons, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy tells us.

For starters, you’re contributing a significant amount of decomposing matter to your trash, and that’s a veritable holiday feast for insects and pests. Put it in the kitchen trash or outdoor trash bin and it won’t be too long before you have some unwelcome visitors on your property.

But even if pests aren’t a particular concern in your area, mold can happen anywhere. If you’ve ever failed to dispose of a pumpkin in a timely manner, you probably already know that, once past their prime, they provide the perfect breeding grounds for fungi. What you might not have realized is that mold releases health-harming spores that rapidly spread into the air and water, and onto any surfaces that come in contact with it.

If you’re still not convinced that putting a pumpkin in the trash is such a big deal, consider the tremendous amount of wasted potential. Decomposing pumpkins make a delicious meal for pests, but they also make an incredible meal for wildlife and the soil itself. As such, returning them to nature instead of sending them to a landfill is the eco-friendlier option. Here’s how to do it.

1. Take it to a pumpkin smash event

Smashing pumpkins isn’t just for mean high school kids and fans of angsty 90s music; it’s also a legitimate event hosted by many cities and communities across the country. Attend a local pumpkin smash event and you’ll get to enjoy all the fun of destroying the sucker without the hassle of having to clean up the aftermath since the authorities who arranged the event will take care of the mess. To find one near you, simply plug in “pumpkin smashing + your city” into Google.

2. Compost the pumpkin

Gourds are biodegradable, which means they’re great candidates for the compost bin. We probably don’t need to tell you that compost can really make a garden grow—and even if you don’t have a green thumb, many cities run composting programs that anyone can participate in and community gardens will likely take your donated pumpkin and compost it for you. Per Waste Management, “Composting is a beneficial soil additive, providing nutrients while helping to retain soil moisture in arid climates. Also, composting food scraps keeps them out of landfills where they take up space and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas.” Note: You’ll need to get your pumpkin ready for the compost bin by removing the stem and all the seeds (if you haven’t already).

3. Bury it in the ground

Show your prized pumpkin you care by giving it a proper burial out back. This disposal method is faster than composting and every bit as eco-friendly. It’s also incredibly easy to do—just find a patch of fertile or semi-fertile soil, dig a hole, cover the pumpkin with dirt and let nature do the rest. Again, you will want to remove the seeds first unless you’re planning on growing your own pumpkin patch.

4. Leave it for local wildlife

Pumpkin is a tasty fruit and wild animals won’t mind if it's a little overripe. As such, another option is to cut the pumpkin into bite-sized pieces and scatter them in a nearby wilderness area. If you live in an urban setting, you can accomplish the same thing by giving the pumpkin to a local zoo or nearby animal shelter. (Just make sure they’re accepting donations, first.)

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