What can you do with pumpkins after Halloween? Try a pumpkin smash

rotting pumpkins

Illinois Extension offices will be offering pumpkin smashes around the state on Nov. 4. To find a location near you, visit SCARE.org. | Photo courtesy of pexels.com

MACOMB, Ill. — On Saturday, Nov. 4, several Illinois Extension offices will be offering pumpkin smashes with local partners in communities across the state.

A pumpkin smash gives a community an option to turn their spooky Jack-o’-lanterns into compost. In western Illinois, the nearest pumpkin smash will be in Macomb at Veterans Park in partnership with the Macomb Park District.

After promoting this event, I have encountered lots of excited people looking forward to bringing their pumpkins to our event to smash them using bats, sledgehammers and even a catapult. Really the sky is the limit on how you want to destroy your pumpkin. However, I have gotten pushback from a few others asking, “Why should I bring my pumpkin to this event? Can’t I just toss it in the trash or in the ditch for animals to eat?”

Well, that certainly is the easiest way to go about disposing of your pumpkin, but not the best. The following is why a pumpkin smash is a great option for disposing of pumpkins:

Millions of Illinoisans need to dispose of millions of pumpkins. A lot of people in Illinois decorate their homes with pumpkins for the Halloween holiday. Even though many people toss these festive yet mushy winter squash into the trash, this adds an immense amount of organic material into the landfill. Typically, in a landfill, this material gets buried and rots in an environment devoid of oxygen, which creates the potent greenhouse gas methane. Keep in mind the landfill must deal with this combustible gas; plus, our landfills won’t last forever. Anything we can divert is beneficial.

Dumping pumpkins has become a big problem in parks and other public and private natural areas. First, this would be considered littering and certainly something illegal, especially for a nature preserve. It is all too common for natural areas to become a dumping spot for yard waste, including pumpkins and straw. The thought is these items will compost, but this is not true composting. The straw and pumpkins not only smother plants but take a long time to decompose and it’s often dumped right on the road, so parks must spend money and time for staff to get it picked up.

Most wild animals won’t eat a rotten pumpkin. Lots of different animals will eat pumpkins. Like humans, the critters may be a bit choosy and go for the fresher pumpkin. Furthermore, feeding the animals can create problems. Leaving pumpkins in ditches can draw animals close to vehicles. Many municipalities are actively trying to manage out-of-control wildlife populations, such as white-tailed deer. Laying out a buffet can have consequences.

Pumpkin smashes divert waste from the landfill. Those pumpkins that get smashed will be sent to a commercial composting facility that supplies compost to homeowners, landscapers and farmers. While it may be easy to toss your pumpkin in the trash, we promise to offer you a smashing good time from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Nov. 4, at Veterans Park.

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