From Pumpkin Patches To Landfills: What To Do With Halloween Leftovers

Happy Halloween! I’ve always been a sucker for this spooky day, and not only because there’s an abundance of candy lying around. Haunted houses, wicked costumes, and carved pumpkins; there’s something fun about being terrified when it’s all pretend. Want to know what’s actually very scary, though? A huge number of pumpkins are wasted every year, used for one day, and then tossed into a landfill to rot.

Such a Waste

Funny that most of us don’t view pumpkins as useful beyond Halloween decor. A recent survey in the UK found only a third who buy and carve the orange squash will actually cook the leftover flesh.

pumpkin waste

In fact, after crunching the numbers, researchers say more than 8 million pumpkins will find their way into landfills after Halloween, which is the equivalent of enough pumpkin pie to feed the entire nation!

While some pumpkins are grown and sold as for ornamental use only, a large majority are actually edible. And if you don’t want to eat your pumpkin after you’ve had your Halloween fun, let it find its way to the compost bin or to another organization that can use it.

Good Gourd Initiatives

In Spokane, WA, for example, the Higher Ground Animal Sanctuary is looking for leftover pumpkin donations, as long as they aren’t rotten or painted. The same goes for Hooves & Feathers in Knoxville, TN. It turns out pumpkins are adored by pigs looking for a delicious snack.

pumpkin waste

Farm animals aren’t the only living creatures that can benefit from pumpkin leftovers. In Washington, D.C., an organization called Compost Cab is running a campaign called “Pumpkins for the People.” It’s collecting, processing, and donating leftover gourds to feed the city’s food insecure.

The organization rescued 8,000 pounds of pumpkin last year, and it’s expecting to collect about 20,000 pounds this year. Pumpkins that haven’t been carved or painted are made into food and distributed, while jack-o’-lanterns are cut up into pieces and put into the compost.

At a time when we all need to be collectively fighting world hunger, I think this initiative is incredibly noble! Instead of sitting in a landfill where the pumpkins rot and release methane gas into the air, they’re being given to the people who need our help the most. It’s a win-win situation.

Delicious and Nutritious

And why shouldn’t we be eating them? Pumpkins are actually one of the best sources around of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant that reduces your risk of developing cancer, asthma, and heart disease. Hell, they may even delay aging!

You can boost your immunity and daily fiber intake by adding pumpkin to your diet, and although delicious, I’m not talking in the form of pumpkin pies. Bake it, roast it, or puree it! Just one cup of cooked or boiled pumpkin contains 200% of the recommended daily vitamin A intake.

pumpkin waste

Pumpkin can replace butter and oil in any baking recipe, including muffins, cakes, and loaves of bread. Add it to smoothies, soups, chilis, or even make your own pasta (like gnocchi) or sauces with it.

Of course, don’t forget to scoop out your pumpkin seeds for a delicious and nutritious snack! This is by far my favorite thing to do with the pumpkin innards. 

And for those of you who, like me, went a little overboard at the pumpkin patch this year and purchased a few too many for the front porch, don’t worry; it turns out freezing pumpkin pieces or puree is super easy. What a relief!

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Catherine Sherriffs

Editor at Garden Culture Magazine

Catherine is a Canadian award-winning journalist who worked as a reporter and news anchor in Montreal’s radio and television scene for 10 years. A graduate of Concordia University, she left the hustle and bustle of the business after starting a family. Now, she’s the editor and a writer for Garden Culture Magazine while also enjoying being a mom to her three young kids. Her interests include great food, gardening, fitness, animals, and anything outdoors.