Remember to recycle your pumpkins this Halloween
The UK grows around 10 million pumpkins each year, and as these giant squashes love plenty of rain, this summer has meant a bumper harvest for farmers across the country.
The growers have a deadline to hit, with the vast majority of the pumpkin crop being snapped up by consumers in the week prior to October 31st. It is estimated that 95% of these giant squashes are destined to be carved into decorative lanterns, with only around 5% of them used as ingredients in pies, soups or stews.
With the average weight of a pumpkin likely to be around 16lbs in 2021, it’s expected that a gigantic 70,000 tonnes of these most seasonal of vegetables will go uneaten this autumn.
Naturally, this poses a challenge, albeit one which doesn’t have to exist. Food is the simplest household waste product to recycle, with all councils providing bins for its quick and easy disposal.
But, this poses the question…what can you do with your pumpkins after Halloween?
Can you recycle pumpkins?
Every last bit of them. Even the parts you wouldn’t normally eat, including the seeds, pulp and tough outer skin can be recycled with practically no effort.
If you’re making a jack o’ lantern, once you’ve scraped the pumpkin’s innards out, either put them straight into your food recycling bin or save them in a bowl to sort out later. It’s that easy.
After Halloween, the rest of the vegetable can go into the recycling, too. In fact, it makes a perfect sized container for whatever was removed in the first place – just remember to take the candle out first!
Can you eat pumpkin seeds, pulp & skin?
If you want to go down the zero waste route, you can get really creative with your pumpkins.
The pulp can be used to make pumpkin purée, which can be added to anything from porridge and yoghurt, to being used as a savoury dip.
Pumpkin seeds are delicious when roasted, especially when they’re seasoned and put through a seed mix. If you don’t fancy eating them, your local birds and squirrels will definitely be grateful for this seasonal treat.
Even the skin can be thinly sliced and turned into crisps. Failing that, they can all be put to good use in a pot for making soup or veg stock, while the internet is awash with great pumpkin recipes.
Pumpkins and other squashes are fantastic, versatile and tasty vegetables, but please remember to recycle yours rather than bin it this Halloween.
Are painted pumpkins recyclable?
On Instagram, the build-up to Halloween this year has been dominated by the trend for painting pumpkins. While they can look brilliant, a pumpkin which has been decorated with a lick of paint needs a little bit of work before it can be recycled.
Many paints contain potentially harmful chemicals, which means that any object covered in it really isn’t suitable for composting. However, due to the tough outer skin of pumpkins, these dangerous compounds can’t easily permeate into the fruit, making the pulp, seeds and flesh safe to recycle. We definitely wouldn’t recommend eating a pumpkin which has been painted, though.
What happens to pumpkins that aren't recycled?
If the remnants of your pumpkin end up in your general waste bin, they will ultimately be sent to landfill, where they eventually rot away, but not until they’ve added more methane – a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide – to an already ozone-damaging mix of refuse emissions.
The UK currently sends around 7 million tonnes of food to landfill each year, all of which can be processed in more environmentally friendly ways, including anaerobic digestion, conversion into biogas or even being put in a compost heap.
What's the heaviest pumpkin grown in the UK?
2021 saw a perfect combination of warm and wet weather for growing giant pumpkins. The British British pumpkin record was set in October 2020 in Lymington by twin brothers, Ian and Stuart Paton, who smashed their existing record with a pumpkin weighing in at 2,593.7lbs – well over a tonne!
This was around 80kg heavier than their previous giant specimen, and they now have the world record in their sights. That was grown by Matthias Willemijns in October 2016, which tipped the scales at an enormous 187 stone (2,624lbs, or 1,190.49kg).