Our thanks to IFSC member Michelle Gibson of the DeKalb County Health Department for sharing this success story and writing this blog post!
Illinois is the largest producer of pumpkins in the United States. Every year Sycamore, Illinois hosts their annual Pumpkin Festival, a celebration of pumpkins. The weeklong festival presents a great opportunity to compost pumpkins after Halloween.
The Sycamore Pumpkin Festival dates back to 1956, when Wally Thurow, who is known as Sycamore’s "Mr. Pumpkin," began displaying a few decorated pumpkins on his front lawn to turn Halloween into a time of fun and creativity. In 1962, through the efforts of Mr. Pumpkin and the Sycamore Lions Club, the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival became an official celebration in Sycamore.
Every year, the Pumpkin Festival unites more than 30 DeKalb County non-profit groups working to provide a weekend of Halloween fun for all. The Courthouse lawn is the center of activities, including thousands of decorated pumpkins on display, there are also arts and craft shows, a house walk, a pie eating contest, a carnival, a fun fair, a 10K race and other events. The festival is concluded by a giant parade on Sunday afternoon.
DeKalb County (where Sycamore is located) saw a tremendous opportunity in Pumpkin Fest to collect and compost pumpkins. The DeKalb County Health Department’s Solid Waste and Recycling Program teamed up with Waste Management to make sure the pumpkins were composted. Over 1,100 pumpkins were collected at Pumpkin Fest in 2016. Waste Management also stationed three collection containers throughout the city of DeKalb for residents to recycle their pumpkins.
Over 8 tons of pumpkins were collected saving 1,720 gallons of water. It was a successful first step for DeKalb County towards their Zero Waste Goals. DeKalb County will continue to compost pumpkins, each year after Halloween and work on other waste diversion efforts as well.