Union County residents can put their Jack o’ Lanterns to good use after Halloween by participating in Union County’s new Pumpkin Recycling Program. The pumpkins will be collected by Union County and other local governments and brought to an organic waste recycler in Elizabeth, 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.”

Two locations will be available for residents to drop off their pumpkins, each day from Monday, November 2 through Friday, November 6, from 9:00 am to 2:00:

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— 151 Boulevard in Cranford (the County Emergency Services Yard)

— 1300 Lamberts Mill Road (the Westfield Conservation Center)

Both locations are available to all Union County residents. Berkeley Heights (101 Berkeley Avenue) and Rahway (999 Hart Street) are also hosting collections for their residents at their local DPW yards. 

Only pumpkins will be accepted at these locations; other food waste is not accepted. Candles and decorations must be removed (paint is okay).

Residents are advised to wear masks and observe social distance when dropping off their pumpkins.

The Pumpkin Recycling Program will send pumpkins to Waste Management’s CORe facility in Elizabeth. The company’s proprietary recycling system converts food waste into a bio-slurry, and that bio-slurry is then transported to Rahway Valley Sewerage Authority (RVSA) and co-digested to increase the output of renewable natural gas.

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. Co-digestion is a proven solution for large scale urban food waste management and is much more efficient at recovering the energy in food waste than incineration or landfill.

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.