CRANFORD - Union County residents can put their Jack o’ Lanterns to good use after Halloween by participating in Union County’s new Pumpkin Recycling Program.

According to the release, residents can drop off their pumpkins at the County Emergency Services Yard located at 151 Kenilworth Boulevard in Cranford, or at the Westfield Conservation Center located at 1300 Lamberts Mill Road in Westfield on Monday, November 2 through Friday, November 6, from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The pumpkins will be collected by Union County and other local governments and brought to an organic waste recycler where they will be transformed into green energy.

“The Pumpkin Recycling Program is an easy, convenient way for Union County residents to support the renewable energy industry, which creates new jobs and helps improve the health and well-being of our communities,” said Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “We hope the #SmashItDontTrashIt campaign boosts public awareness about new opportunities for keeping food waste from going to waste.”

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Only pumpkins will be accepted at these locations; other food waste is not accepted. Candles and decorations must be removed. Residents are advised to wear masks and observe social distance when dropping off their pumpkins.

The Pumpkin Recycling Program will send pumpkins to a processing facility in Elizabeth operated by the firm Waste Management. The company’s proprietary recycling system converts food waste into an organic slurry, which is used to increase the output of biogas and other renewable products at municipal wastewater treatment plants.

Food waste is a global problem that contributes to excess greenhouse gas emissions while burdening local governments with waste disposal costs. In the U.S. alone, more than 52 million tons of food are displaced in the U.S. each year, according to some estimates.

Traditionally, food waste is sent to landfills or burned in waste-to-energy facilities. New organic recycling systems provide a more sustainable way to manage food waste. Union County residents can also help reduce food waste by using up leftovers and donating unused shelf items before their sell-by date expires.

To keep up to date with all local and countywide recycling programs and events in Union County, download the free Recycle Coach app. For more information about Recycle Coach and all recycling programs sponsored by Union County, visit ucnj.org/recycle.

For quick links to all environmental programs and activities in Union County, visit The Green Connection, ucnj.org/green-connection.