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Don’t Trash Those Pumpkins, Smash ‘Em

The Pumpkin Smash is an annual effort by communities across the greater Chicagoland area to divert Halloween pumpkins from landfills by providing locations for residents to drop-off jack-o-lanterns and other pumpkins to be composted. It’s held each year the Saturday after Halloween at locations across the area, and most municipal and other events this year are scheduled for November 5. Plain, clean pumpkins of any size will be accepted, as well as those decorated with acrylic paint. Additions such as candles, yarn and stickers should be removed beforehand.

Composting is nature’s way of recycling plants, with many benefits, such as avoiding landfill greenhouse gas emissions from decomposing organics (landfills are the third-largest producers of methane in the U.S.); and producing a useful, nutrient-dense soil amendment. Pumpkins are 90 percent water, which is great for soil, not for landfills.

SCARCE, an environmental education nonprofit founded in 1990 in Wheaton and the cities of Wheaton and Elmhurst, hosted the first pumpkin collections in 2014, diverting 780 tons of pumpkins from landfills and helping improve composting laws in Illinois. By 2021, the Pumpkin Smash grew to more than 59 sites across the state and composted more than 242 tons of pumpkins. The Pumpkin Smash has composted more than 780 tons of pumpkins; reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 561 tons of CO2; and diverted 167,741 gallons of water from landfills since 2014.

More than 1 billion pounds of pumpkins are annually grown in the U.S. The majority end up in landfills. It’s not just a waste of food; in a landfill, pumpkins decompose and release methane, a greenhouse gas emission at least 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. In addition to the environmental benefits, the Pumpkin Smash is fun. Smashing pumpkins is not only allowed, it’s encouraged.

Visit to find the nearest location and download shareable promotional materials to encourage participation in our local communities.