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Published: Wednesday, 10/19/2011

Program urges pumpkin recycling

Drop off sites, curbside collection slated for discarded gourds

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

A pilot pumpkin program in Perrysburg is carving out a message for local residents: take jack back.

Rather than plunking the leftover fruit in the garbage, residents can recycle jack-o'-lanterns that decorate their homes for Halloween. During the monthlong Great Pumpkin Patch Recycle Roundup, city residents can drop off those orange orbs of autumn at a designated site. And, there will be a one-day, curbside collection, coordinated by 17-year-old Daniel Turner, a Perrysburg High School junior.

Orange is the new green in this Earth-friendly effort that not only composts pumpkins, but saves the city landfill tipping fees.

Planting the idea for such a program was Judy Hagen, program coordinator of the Perrysburg Office of Litter Prevention and Recycling. She said she's unaware of any other such communitywide pumpkin roundup in the area.

Pumpkin disposal varies from community to community. Some out-of-state communities conduct collections as part of waste reduction week programs, diverting hundreds of tons of pumpkins from the landfill to the compost pile.

In some Toledo suburbs, people get rid of pumpkins in a variety of ways, including backyard composting. Some people toss pumpkins (after obtaining permission) into rural fields, and some communities permit pumpkin disposal through yard-waste bag programs or at a yard-waste transfer facility site. Often, pumpkins go into the garbage cans.

A year ago, Ms. Hagen considered creating the pumpkin recycling project in Perrysburg, but lacked time to pull it together.

When young Turner called recently to inquire about possible community-service projects, she mentioned pumpkin recycling.

"I said I would like to take it on," recalled the teen who has organized relatives and friends, some with trucks, who will help with the curbside roundup Nov. 5. Residents are being asked to put their unwanted pumpkins near the curb before 8 a.m. that day, but not earlier in the week in order to deter squash smashing by hooligans.

The city has made arrangements for the fall fruit to be composted at an area farm at no charge, Ms. Hagen said.

Before the pumpkins get hauled to the field, they will be weighed, in part to compare how much came from the drop-off site and how much from the curbside collection.

Too, "We are going to see how much weight we have kept out of the landfill and put into recycling," Ms. Hagen said.

Total tonnage will include pumpkins that will be turned into jack-o'-lanterns during a community pumpkin carving extravaganza from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Hood Park in downtown Perrysburg. The goal of the event, hosted by Downtown Perrysburg, Inc., and the Perrysburg High School art department, is to carve about 200 pumpkins that will be displayed around the Commodore Perry statue every evening until Halloween. After the holiday, the jack-o'-lanterns will be recycled.

Pumpkin recycling will be offered for city residents at Perrysburg's Department of Public Service building, 11980 Roachton Rd., during November. Hours are 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday (except on holiday closings). The free service is provided compliments of Modern Disposal, Ms. Hagen said.

Daniel, an Eagle Scout candidate, estimated the curbside collection will run from 8 a.m. to about noon Nov. 5.

"For Eagle Scout, I need to form and lead a public-service project, and this is the one I chose. I thought it was a good idea. It can save the city a lot of money."

Too, with the roundup's recycling and composting components, "it can help the community as a whole," he said.

Keeping pumpkins out of landfills is a good idea because the fruit can be recycled, Ms. Hagen said. Otherwise, the pumpkins cost $38 a ton to be dumped into the landfill "where they are no good to anybody," she said.

Perrysburg does not have the required permit to compost the pumpkins, she said.

Other fall decorations, such as cornstalks and straw bales, can go into the city's recycling, she said.

When asked for an estimate of pumpkin tonnage, she said, "I have no clue."

It could be a lot, though. Many Perrysburg porches glow with jack-o'-lanterns on Halloween.

Homeowners can keep their pumpkins for their own compost piles. Or, jack-o'-lanterns, with candles and wax removed, can be put out as food for animals, but Ms. Hagen cautions that doing so could draw foraging deer.

"Deer love them. Pumpkins are like chocolate to them," Ms. Hagen said.



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