Pumpkins pollute: here’s how to recycle them

More than 500,000 tons of pumpkins are grown in the United States each year. In France, approximately 140,000 tons of pumpkins are harvested each year. It is made into pies, winter soups but mainly decorations for the Halloween season, including the popular one Jack-o’-Lanterns.

Result: millions of them, big, small, orange, white, end up in the trash.

“If you walk down the street [aux États-Unis] soon after Halloween, you’ll see pumpkins on trash can lids. They all end up in landfills where they emit methane,” said Kay McKeen, executive director of SCARCE, an Illinois-based environmental education organization.

Methane is a greenhouse gas that warms the atmosphere faster than carbon dioxide. Therefore it strongly contributes to climate change.

(Read: Air pollution is twice as deadly as we thought)

Landfills, where nearly 40% of the food produced in the United States ends up, are responsible for 14% of the nation’s methane emissions each year.

This is why McKeen and his colleagues at SCARCE have been organizing a collection operation since 2014 called Pumpkin Smash: Illinoisans can drop off their old pumpkins at sixty-nine different collection points to send them to compost bins and, of course, crush them as is tradition.

According to its estimates, the group saved 538 tons of pumpkins from going to landfills.

In France, every year,
almost 10 million tons of edible food is wasted.

” [Le compostage des citrouilles] feeding the soil with nutrients, saving water and not producing methane: it’s a win-win situation”, explains McKeen.

Unfortunately, many localities do not offer collection operations. National Geographic USA so readers of its newsletters were asked what their tips were for reducing waste. Below are our favorites, from making sweet treats to making pets.


Pumpkins can improve the nutrient quality of the soil.

They are 90% water, which naturally wets compost piles that require water to break down food waste effectively. Also, rotting fruits and vegetables like pumpkin enrich the soil with nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, which help new plants grow.

Be sure to cut pumpkins into small pieces before throwing them in the trash or throwing them in a collective composter, as this speeds up their decomposition.

“In my family, what we like to do with our pumpkins is let them rot in the sun, behind tall grass,” Amber Keller said.


Pumpkin puree is an ingredient often found in the preparation of some muffins, breads and pies. To recreate this food that is easily found in stores, you can use the outer, fatty part of the leftover pumpkin.

“None of our pumpkins end up in the trash. Each of them is cut, baked, mashed in a blender and frozen in a bag,” explains Una Hagen.

One of our readers, Elizabeth Flournoy, also mentioned the fact that pumpkin flesh can be fermented: “I make delicious spiced pumpkin wine! And it’s easy to make! »

You can also remove the seeds, rinse them and then salt or brown them in the oven.

Pumpkins are a source of many minerals, vitamins and fiber, making them a food choice for people. But not only! According to the American Kennel Club, mixing pumpkin puree into dog food can help relieve digestive issues in our pets.

” [Les animaux] love pumpkin puree croquettes and it makes them feel better,” explained Anne Meier.


Many readers have told us to throw their pumpkin pieces outside to feed the deer, raccoons or elk.

However, even though pumpkins are eaten by wildlife, experts say they are best left to forage or hunt for their own food. Feeding animals can cause them to congregate, promoting the spread of disease. Some states in the US, such as Colorado, are good people who deliberately feed wildlife. Also, trying to feed animals like deer may inadvertently attract predators like lynx or bears to fight with people.

We often read on social networks that pumpkin seeds are a natural dewormer for farm animals or wild animals. However, there are not enough studies on the subject to verify this claim.

On the other hand, some fermenters use pumpkins as food for their pigs, goats and others. In the United States, the website Pumpkins for Pigsindicates which farms or shelters accept donations of uncarved or painted pumpkins.

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