Carving pumpkins is a fun tradition for many American families, but there’s a big problem with what happens after the tricking and the treating festivities are over. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, too many of those discarded pumpkin carcasses end up in landfills, and the influx of organic material during the squash-centric holiday season creates a nasty side effect. Our obsession with holiday pumpkins increases the greenhouse gas emissions coming from landfills to an epic degree.
The Energy Department reports that 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in the States each year, and most of those wind up being tossed out with the trash. The old squash becomes part of the “more than 254 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) produced in the United States every year.” That waste breaks down into methane, which contributes to the effects of climate change “with more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide,” the department said in a statement.
In the future, it might be possible to harness the energy of all those tossed pumpkins and use it to produce usable fuel through bio refineries. The agency is already working to develop two facilities like this, which would help reduce the amount of waste headed for landfills, and thereby save untold millions of pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. Neither bio refinery is open for business yet, though.
So, in the meantime, compost those jack-o-lanterns, okay?