Pumpkin Smash

Don't trash it, smash it! 

Jack-o’-lanterns live a short, scary life. That is unless they are catapulted, hurled, or whacked into a compost pile after spooky season is over! Green your Halloween by recycling pumpkins into compost at a free, outdoor Pumpkin Smash offered around Illinois in early November.

Be part of the solution. You can help fight climate change

Organic food waste like pumpkins create the potent greenhouse gas methane as they decompose without oxygen in landfills. Since 2019, when Illinois Extension hosted its first Pumpkin Smash, 46 tons of compostable waste have been kept out of landfills, preventing the release of 22 tons of carbon dioxide.

This project is done in collaboration with SCARCE, an Illinois environmental non-profit that started Pumpkin Smashes in 2014. Find a full map of Pumpkin Smashes on their website at SCARCE.org/Pumpkins.

Smash Instructions

  1. Collect pumpkins from your home, neighborhood, school, or workplace.
  2. Remove candles, ribbons, and any other non-organic materials.
  3. Drop off pumpkins at a smash site and they will be transported to a composting facility.

Find a smash site near you! 

In 2023, smashes are available at 12 locations in Cook County, as well as in Lake, McHenry, McDonough, Kane, and McLean counties on November 3 or 4.

Cook County

November 4, 10 AM to 2 PM

November 4, 9 AM to 2 PM

November 4, Noon to 4 PM

Lake County

Kane County

McDonough County

  • November 4, 10 AM to 2 PM: Veteran’s Park, 1800 E. University Drive, Macomb, IL 61455

    McLean County

    • November 4, 10 AM to 2 PM: Rader Farms, 1312 Ropp Road, Normal, IL 61761

    McHenry County

    Pumpkin Smash FAQS

    What's the point of a pumpkin smash?

    To fight climate change. Decaying organic matter in landfills produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The aerobic process of composting does not produce methane.

    Help create a circular economy by transforming your “waste” into compost, a valuable product used to produce more food.

    What is climate change?

    Climate change is a natural or human caused change in weather patterns. 

    Human activity is currently contributing to climate change by accelerating the greenhouse effect. Learn more about the greenhouse effect and climate change at go.illinois.edu/GreenhouseEffect.

    Why can’t I donate my pumpkin to a farm?

    There are serious food safety concerns when animal feed is sourced from outside the farm. In fact, Illinois Public Act 48-7 prohibits feeding food scraps to farm animals unless they are sourced from the farm where the animal lives. If you wouldn’t eat a rotting pumpkin, why should a pig?

    Learn more about leftovers for livestock from the Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic.

    Why can’t I dump my pumpkin in a field, the woods, or a nature preserve?

    • It's illegal and considered littering under the Illinois Litter Control Act.
    • Dumped pumpkins and straw bales smother native plant species rather than composting.
    • Rotting or decorated pumpkins are not good food sources for wild animals.
    • Feeding wild animals can create out-of-control wildlife populations.

    Explore more in the blog, Dealing with pumpkins after Halloween: Debunking social media advice


    What if I can't attend a Pumpkin Smash event?

    Those who cannot attend a smash event may still be able to compost through their local trash provider, private service, or by starting a compost pile.

    What is a circular economy and what does compost have to do with it?

    A circular economy focuses on systems of production and consumption where nothing is wasted and everything has value. It is an alternative option to the linear economy which extracts finite resources, makes something from them, and then disposes of them.

    By recycling food waste into compost, we create a soil amendment that can be used to grow more food.