Ask Eartha: How to compost your pumpkin and keep candy wrappers out of the trash
Dear Eartha, my Halloween pumpkin is a drooping mess. Is pumpkin composting available this year?
This is the time of year when Halloween pumpkins turn really spooky — oozing, collapsing and growing all manner of fungi. And yes, you can compost the moldy mess for free through Nov. 14 at the Breckenridge, Frisco and Silverthorne recycling centers. Look for the clearly marked bins, dump in your pumpkins and pat yourself on the back for keeping your jack-o-lanterns out of the trash. Pumpkins are composted right here in Summit County, and the finished compost is used to nourish local soils. Pretty cool, right?
Gourd ground rules
If you’ve been to one of the three recycling centers in the past couple of days, you might have noticed that a new bin appeared. These bins are clearly marked with pumpkin composting signs, and they’ll be available for the public to use.
Keep in mind that your pumpkins are turned into compost, so you’ll need to remove candles, artificial lighting, paint, glitter and any other decorations before placing them in the bins. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in adding glitter — which absolutely won’t compost — into my vegetable garden.
More than 146 million Americans were projected to carve pumpkins this Halloween, and that adds up to a lot of potential food waste. Don’t worry, I’m not asking you to nix the Halloween tradition. I’m just asking you to be smarter about it and compost those leftover gourds. After all, pumpkins left to rot in a landfill release harmful methane pollution. Instead, drop that pumpkin off for composting. In 2020, Summit County locals composted 6,300 pounds of pumpkins, up from just 1,500 pounds in 2019.
Many locals complain that their pumpkins droop long before the spooky holiday festivities, and our October freeze-thaw cycle doesn’t help. Next time you’re pumpkin shopping, or if you intend to use a few for decoration at your Thanksgiving table, choose pumpkins with no soft spots. Look for consistent coloring and tap on the pumpkin, listening for a hollow sound.
Picking from a farm can be a great fall activity that supports Colorado farmers while ensuring your pumpkin choice is fresh from the patch. To keep mine from freezing, I use it for indoor decoration and carve it right before Halloween. I get rid of the guts through the free Food Scrap Recycling Program and roast the seeds with oil and chili powder for a yummy snack.
Costumes and candy wrappers
Beyond the pumpkins, Halloween waste can be scary: Consider the cheap costumes thrown away after one wear, a sea of candy wrappers or, for some, simply too much candy. Americans were expected to spend $3.3 billion on costumes this year, many of which are new and often made from plastics. One easy solution to the costume conundrum is to buy used. Thrift stores and local Facebook groups are great shopping options that can allow costumes to live a second, third or fourth life. After the holiday, donate your costumes or save them to give away next fall. Alternatively, stash those kids’ costumes in a dress-up box for creative play on a blustery day.
And what about all that candy? If you’re overwhelmed with sweets after Halloween, donate it at Stork and Bear, 610 Main St. in Frisco, from Nov. 1-5. They’ll get it to Operation Gratitude, a nonprofit that distributes candy care packages to deployed troops, local military units, veterans and first responders. Additionally, Summit Middle School students can donate their candy at the nurse’s office for the same cause.
Leftover candy also freezes well for use later in milkshakes. And it’s a fun way to sweeten up a DIY trail mix. I like to keep a few pieces of candy in my pocket every time I ski — it’s a good pick-me-up if you’ve been out too long, and it’s fun to share with friends.
As for those candy wrappers, several locations around Summit County offer TerraCycle Zero Waste boxes for wrappers and chip bags. Check out HighCountryConservation.org/recycle and search Rocky the Recycling Robot for locations and details.
As you ride out the Halloween sugar rush, put that candy buzz to use by reducing your waste and saving a few pumpkins from the landfill.
“Ask Eartha Steward” is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at email@example.com.
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