Pumpkin collections increase throughout suburbs

After a pleasantly surprising turnout last year for its first pumpkin recycling event, the College of Lake County has upped the ante Saturday for anyone who brings a pumpkin to compost.

The drop-off time has been extended an hour - now it's 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. - and the location has moved to the main college entry off Washington Street at Lancer Lane just west of Route 45 in Grayslake. Games, such as pumpkin bowling, also are planned.

Indeed, interest in composting pumpkins to curb methane emissions and enrich soil has been increasing throughout the region. Many events are scheduled in DuPage County, and McHenry and Kane counties are proceeding with first-time efforts.

"If we can make it fun and people learn and it's not that hard, we can get a lot done," said Kay McKeen, founder of Glen Ellyn-based SCARCE (School & Community Assistance for Recycling and Composting Education).

Visit for a list of area pumpkin collections and a how-to guide.

Among them are Kane County's inaugural event to be held at Pushing The Envelope Farm in Geneva. The theme, which is shared elsewhere, is "Don't Let Your Waste Haunt You." Other entities, such as park districts, are sponsoring events where pumpkins are flung or rolled, for example, as another way to raise awareness and educate the public.

At CLC, details are evolving, but students in the environmental club have expanded the activities to lure more visitors to drop off pumpkins rather than throw them in the trash and ultimately landfills.

Pumpkins are 90 percent water and release methane gas when they begin to rot.

Landfills are the third-largest producers of methane gas, which environmentalists say contributes to climate change.

Midwest Organics near Wauconda again will waive its fee to compost whatever is collected Saturday, CLC's sustainability coordinator Dave Husemoller said. Pumpkins are said to be filled with nutrients that are good for soil.

Participants at all locations are asked to remove candles, yarn, stickers, googly eyes, plastic ears or other non-recyclable decorations.

SCARCE began coordinating pumpkin composting programs in 2014, and participation continues to climb.

On Saturday, 17 locations in 15 towns in DuPage County are involved. Last year, 26.5 tons of pumpkins were collected at 12 locations in 11 towns, McKeen said.

"We're getting from New York, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and California - 'How to do it, how did you do it?'" she said. Focusing on a single subject in a fun way is a good way to educate the public, she added.

"We're trying to think of interesting ways to teach," according to McKeen.

"People are probably paying attention to the Cubs, which is great, but I'm hoping Saturday people will be paying attention to their pumpkins."


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