Iowa City encourages pumpkin composting this Halloween

The City of Iowa City is encouraging residents to compost their pumpkins in an effort to keep the squash out of landfills. Decomposing pumpkins releases methane, which is a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming.

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Kate Pixley, News Reporter

The Halloween season has come to an end, and so have the lifespans of many Iowa City pumpkins.

The Iowa City Department of Resource Management encourages residents to compost their spooky squashes this Halloween.

“When you switch off your porch light on Halloween night, remember to toss your jack-o’-lantern in your yard waste container, not in your trash,” a press release from the city said. “To participate, simply combine food and yard waste in the same container and set out for collection. Do not place food waste in paper yard “waste bags.”

Iowa City residents can participate as long as they have an organics container. Jane Wilch, the Iowa City recycling coordinator, said residents can even put their pumpkins in a regular brown paper grocery bag.

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“Anyone who lives in Johnson County or the cities of Riverside and Kalona can take pumpkins just as a resident of Johnson County,” Wilch said. “So, they can dump pumpkins or other food waste or yard waste that they might have directly at our compost facility.”

Residents who don’t receive curbside organics services can drop off their pumpkins at the Iowa City Landfill & Recycling Center for free.

University of Iowa sophomore Emily Benzing, a College Green resident, said she was unaware that pumpkins could be composted.

“I didn’t really plan on composting [my pumpkins]; I was most likely going to just throw them in the trash,” Benzing said. “Now that I’m aware [of the Iowa City composting program], I’ll compost the pumpkins.”

Improper pumpkin disposal can cause more harm than taking space in a landfill. According to the Energy Department, most of the pumpkins carved in America end up in the trash. The pumpkins’ decomposing releases methane, a main contributor to global warming.

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More than 1.3 billion tons of pumpkins get sent to landfills across the country every year. Pumpkin composting is not a new concept, as the Energy Department began encouraging people to responsibly dispose of pumpkins in 2015.

“With the passing of Halloween, millions of pounds of pumpkins have turned from seasonal decorations to trash destined for landfills, adding to more than 254 million tons of municipal solid waste … produced in the United States every year,” the Energy Department press release said. “This Halloween, think of turning this seasonal waste into energy as a very important ‘trick’ that can have a positive environmental and energy impact.”

Wilch said the city sees a marked increase in pumpkins being thrown in the trash in the weeks following Halloween. The pumpkin-composting initiative is a way to mitigate the increase.

“The reason why we try to do outreach and education about pumpkins specifically during this time of year is we see an increase in that particular organic-waste stream, being that it is Halloween and Thanksgiving season,” Wilch said. “We want to make sure that our residents and community in general have that information resource for knowing pumpkin composting is available.”

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