The Rotten Truth About Halloween Pumpkins

With these first days of October you might be starting to get into the autumnal spirit with some nostalgic fall favorites. Nothing harkens the beginning of fall to me quite like the arrival of all things pumpkin: muffins, lattes, candles, and of course, carving. 

young girl carving pumpkin

Carving is a particular favorite of mine. Not only do I have fond memories of carving with friends and family over the years, but there’s just something so satisfying to me about a creative task that requires focus like that… not to mention all of the roasted seeds that are sure to follow.

But did you know that every year an estimated 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins end up in landfills? Oftentimes when the topic of food waste or organic waste in landfills is brought up an immediate reaction is “well, at least it will decompose there, right?” 

While food waste has the potential given the right environment to break down into nutrient-rich compost, food and other organic waste sent to landfills does not. Composting requires an aerobic (or oxygenated) environment and typically some amount of churning to ensure that the pile remains an aerobic environment; however, in landfills organic waste ends up compacted down or buried under other forms of waste, leading to an anaerobic (or oxygen free) environment. 

When food waste breaks down in an anaerobic environment the bacteria present produce methane gas, which is incredibly effective at trapping heat. In fact, the UN Environment Programme states that over a 20 year period methane is 80 times more warming than carbon dioxide. In composting the presence of oxygen allows for organic material to break down without the bacteria responsible for methane production becoming active. 

The methane generated in landfills is, in theory, collected and processed for use as natural gas, but collection is imperfect, at best, and it’s not possible to know how much escapes capture and processing. Considering that the UN determined that “immediate reductions in methane emissions are the best, swiftest chance the planet has at slowing climate change” it certainly can’t hurt to add less fuel to that fire (pun 9000% intended). One of the best ways to do this is to start composting! 


What is compostable?

You might be surprised at how much of what you put in your weekly trash is actually compostable! Here’s a short list of the most common ones:

  • Fruit peels
  • Vegetable scraps
  • Grains
  • Egg shells
  • Coffee Grounds
  • Paper
  • Leaves
  • Wood chips and saw dust
  • Nut shells
  • Seafood shells
  • Hair and pet fur
  • Natural fiber fabrics (100% cotton, wool, linen)
  • Paper towels and napkins (not used with cleaning solutions)
  • Dairy*
  • Meat*
  • Fruit pits*

*these can attract critters, so beware! If you’re using a compost service be sure to check with them before sending them these.

Composting options in Philly

I’ll do a more in-depth post about starting your own compost in a later blog, but for today I want to focus on how you can compost that pumpkin as soon as it starts to look saggy! If you live in Philly chances are you don’t have a ton of outdoor space to work with, but you have options

Compost Collection Services 

There are several companies that work in and around Philly who offer compost collection right from your house. Check out Bennett Compost, Circle Compost, Back to Earth Compost (suburbs of Philly), or Mother Compost (mainline Philly) to see how to get started.

Drop Off Sites

Did you know that there’s a completely free compost drop off spot right around the corner from our shop? It’s true!

Liberty Lands Park hosts a free compost drop off every Saturday from 11-12 behind the playground at the south side of the park (against the wall to Kaplan’s bakery). 

List of compostable and non-compostable materials for drop off at Liberty Lands compost

Philly is launching 12 other public compost programs at the following locations:

  • Pearl Street Garden: Urban Tree Connection
  • Collins Smith Barrick play garden
  • Lawncrest Community Garden
  • Hardy Williams Academy Mastery Charter
  • 8th & Poplar Farm
  • Temple Community Garden
  • Brewerytown Garden
  • St. James School
  • Hunting Park Community Garden
  • Pleasant Playground Garden
  • Cesar Andreu Iglesias Garden

If you live near any and want to get involved reach out to see if and how you are able to.

Share Waste (thanks for reminding me the name, Kim!)

Share Waste connects you to people in your neighborhood who are already composting, vermi-composting, or raising animals. 

Not only is this great if you can’t afford a composting service or use a drop off, but if you are traveling and want to be able to compost your food scraps on the go you can find a host away from home. How cool is that?!


So go make those fall memories! You’ve got options for those wilted pumpkins come November ;)

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