Can you recycle leftover Halloween pumpkins?
Halloween is one of the most celebrated and joyous seasons of the year. Who doesn’t enjoy decorating the yard with spooky Jack-o-Lanterns and turning the house into a haunted attraction for all to enjoy? But once Halloween is over, seasonal waste such as pumpkins, hay and leaves are often disposed of in landfills where they then decompose and turn into methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy states that methane has a warming effect 20 times that of carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change. So what can you do with all those leftover pumpkins?
Did you know that pumpkins can be turned into renewable energy? Severn Trent, a water services company, has been collecting old Halloween pumpkins from staff members to put into anaerobic, or air-sealed, digestion plants that create clean energy. According to Chris Jellett, Severn Trent’s commercial business manager, “one 600g (1.32 lb) pumpkin could power a lightbulb for 24 hours!”
The U.S. produces 1.4 billion pounds of pumpkins a year. Pennsylvania alone produces 94.2 million pounds. If 50% of all U.S. food waste was anaerobically digested, including used Halloween pumpkins, it would generate enough electricity to power 2.5 million homes for a year. But how does this process work?
How can pumpkins create energy?
Like all food waste, pumpkins are filled with energy. By placing leftover Halloween pumpkins into anaerobic digesters, bacteria break down the food waste and release methane gas. Normally, this would be a harmful greenhouse gas, but the anaerobic digesters capture this gas and instead use it to generate electricity. According to the Department of Energy, “digesting 100 tons of food waste five days a week can generate enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.”
Research by the Latvia University of Agriculture in 2017 on whether food waste would make a good renewable energy source showed “Pumpkin biomass is recommended for utilisation in biogas co-generation plants due to the high specific methane yield of 0.422 L g-1 DOM on average.” This is close to double the yield from vegetable marrow (0.274 L g-1 DOM), and slightly less than the yield from apple biomass (0.451 L g-1 DOM). Using pumpkins to make energy can not only reduce food waste and harmful greenhouse gases, but according to the study, makes for a very good source for biogas production as well.
Pumpkins can be converted into other useful products as well!
According to the Energy Department, pumpkins can be used for more than just electricity. They are “working together with industry to develop and test integrated biorefineries, industrial centers capable of efficiently converting plant material into affordable biofuels, biopower, and other products.” One such project in 2011, Enerkem in Mississippi, planned to convert 300 tons of solid waste a day into ethanol, which amounts to roughly 290 tank cars of ethanol per year.
Currently, Pennsylvania ranks 9th in biogas production with 173 operational biogas systems (26 of which are food-based) and the possibility for another 348 new projects to be developed. If all these were completed they could potentially generate 2 billion kWh for Pennsylvania electricity customers yet still remain carbon neutral.
Recycle those pumpkins and save with PA Energy Ratings!
Why let your Halloween pumpkins go to waste and contribute to harmful greenhouse gases? Recycle your leftovers and help produce clean energy for all to enjoy. And don’t forget, if you’re looking for even cheaper rates on your electricity in Pennsylvania this Halloween season, you can head over to https://www.paenergyratings.com/electricity-rates to learn more and compare plans right now.