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Don't toss jack-o'-lanterns in the trash. Try composting at home or dropping off at collection locations.

Compost bins with pumpkin and dog nearby

Properly disposing of pumpkins after Halloween festivities are over is easier than ever. Many Michigan communities are accepting pumpkins for composting -- and in some cases -- feeding farm animals like sheep.

Aaron Hiday, statewide composting coordinator at the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) encourages people to compost their pumpkins through their community composting sites or by creating their own compost bins. This reduces the amount of waste in landfills and helps nourish soil, he says.

Kent Walters, a geologist in EGLE's Materials Management Division, was inspired by Hiday's example to make his own compost bins out of heat-treated pallets he had on hand last year. The compost bins helped manage the mounds of organic waste generated from end-of-year garden clean-outs. Now, they are filled with leaves, food scraps, yard clippings and pumpkins. "At the end of the first year, one bin was completely full of various organic wastes," he said. "Over time, that huge pile has reduced significantly in size, and I am already seeing the benefits of composting by producing some nice black soil to reintroduce back into the garden."

Don't have a compost bin? Check with your local recycler for drop-off locations for yard waste to see if they accept pumpkins for composting. The Michigan Recycling Directory website lists locations that take food scraps. (Just type " food scraps" into the field where it says, "What are you looking to recycle?" Before taking your jack-o'-lantern there, be sure to verify with the location that they accept food scraps.)

The handy Home Composting: Reap a Heap of Benefits info sheet provides more information. 

Hiday provides more tips on how to compost in this EGLE video.

To learn more about composting, visit Michigan.gov/EGLECompost. To learn more about food recovery, visit Michigan.gov/FoodWaste

Photo caption: Kent Walters' compost bins with pumpkin and dog nearby.

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