By Liz Kunkle, Founder of Go Green Winnetka, IFSCC Board Member and Committee Co-Chair


Pumpkin collection events, or “Smashes,” are spreading throughout Chicagoland and beyond! Learn why, where, when, and how to compost your pumpkins rather than send them to landfill. This flyer makes it easy for you HERE.

Image of flyer entitled "A Smashed Pumpkin is Better Than a Rotted One"

Click this image to access the flyer online.

You may know watermelons are mostly water (it’s in the name!). Did you also know pumpkins are mostly water (it’s why they are so heavy!)? And did you know that when it comes to pumpkin production, Illinois “smashes” the competition? Leading in acreage and yield, Illinois produced 564 million pounds of ornamental (for decorating) and processing (for eating) pumpkins in 2020—as much as the other top five most productive states (CA, IN, MI, TX, and VA) combined.


Did you also know that one-third of all food produced globally is lost (does not reach consumers) or wasted (is not eaten by consumers after purchase)? Food and organic waste in anaerobic landfills cannot break down properly and produce methane gas, which is 30 – 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere. If food waste were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses behind China and the United States.


Reducing food and other organic waste sent to landfills—and specifically composting that food and organic waste instead—are easy and inexpensive ways to reduce and reverse methane emissions, capture and store carbon, and enrich soil, water, and air quality. Composting pumpkins and other water-intensive organics not only conserves water already in soil, it rescues and returns water to soil that had previously been removed. #rescuewater


  • Before composting or smashing any pumpkins, please note—only the pumpkins themselves may be composted.
  • Do not use or be sure to remove any non-biodegradable decorating materials such as plastic, metal, stickers, candles, etc.

Once you’re ready to dispose of your pumpkins, you have lots of options. Find one or more that are a good fit for you and your family.

ANYTIME: Find an out-of-the- way spot in your yard. A sunny spot speeds the process but is not required. Put one pumpkin in the sun and one in the shade and compare notes. Place your pumpkin in the spot, smash it a bit, cover it with an equal or greater amount of leaves, and let nature do its work.

ANYTIME: Use your community’s regular curbside, container swap, drop-off, or other organics/food scrap collection program. See for guidance on the availability of services in your area.

ANNUALLY AROUND HALLOWEEN: Look for local community collection events and Pumpkin Smashes. See for locations in Illinois.

IFSCC Gold Sustaining Partner, SCARCE, has helped Pumpkin Smashes grow to over 59 sites across the state since 2014. The Pumpkin Smash is an annual effort by communities to divert pumpkins from landfills by providing locations for residents to drop-off jack-o-lanterns to be composted. It is held each year the Saturday after Halloween. Don’t Trash it, Smash it!

Anyone can help SCARCE spread the word that pumpkins should not go into the landfill. Learn more on the SCARCE Pumpkin Smash web page, including a how-to guide for hosting a collection event, a map of registered collection events in IL, a way to register your community’s collection event, flyers and other communications tools to spread the word.