Monday, November 10, 1997

Don't trash it: Halloween's over, but your pumpkin can still be useful

Published in the Columbia Missourian

Halloween is over, and your candy's almost gone. The pumpkin on your front step is turning black and starting to cave in. It's time to get rid of it before it gets really gross.

There are a few things you can do with it.

You can put it in the garbage and have the city trash collectors take it to the landfill. There it will sit, buried under more trash, far from the air it needs to decompose.

It could take 50 years - maybe more - before the pumpkin decays. Until then, it will occupy space in the landfill.

But pumpkins have a lot to offer the world. They have all kinds of nutrients to give to plants in your house and garden. You have a choice of things to do with the pumpkins.

"You can compost your pumpkin really easily," said Tina Hubbs, city recycling volunteer. A compost is a mixture of things considered to be trash that can be turned into fertilizer.

There are three options for composting here in Columbia.

First there's a yard compost. You can build a bin out of newspaper, sticks and string. In your yard bin, you can compost food, yard waste and pumpkins! It's very easy, not messy at all, and you can even do some of it yourself, if an adult helps.

You also can use a worm composter. This uses worms to help break down the waste. They east the food and organic waste you put in the bin, turning it into useful fertilizer. Cut your pumpkin into chunks and put the chunks into the worm bin.

The last option you have is to use the city's composting facility. Every house has clear plastic bags for yard and garden waste. You can put your pumpkin in there, too, and it will be composted at the city's central compost pile.

When the pumpkin has finished turning into compost, you can use it for lots of things. If you have a garden, you can spread the compost there to make it healthier. If you have house plants, you can mix the compost with soil to make a rich potting soil. You can also spread it on your lawn to help it grow.

There is more than one way to explore things to do with compost.

For example, pile up a bunch of leaves in your yard. Your parents will appreciate the help, and when you're done, you can jump in them!

After you've had your fun jumping in the leaf pile, put your old pumpkin at the bottom of it and cover it with leaves.

When spring rolls around uncover the pumpkin and see what it looks like. What happened to it over the winter?

If you want to learn more about composting, the city runs composting workshops throughout the year to teach you how. There are demonstration sites at Oakland Junior High School and the Community Garden on North Ninth Street.

Of course, besides pumpkins, you can compost food and yard waste as well. Composting is a great way to reduce the amount of trash your family generates, and you can help the environment by keeping useful stuff - such as pumpkins - out of landfills.