Don’t Let Your Waste Haunt You: Recycle Your Jack-O’-Lantern in Kane County

Don’t Let Your Waste Haunt You: Recycle Your Jack-O’-Lantern in Kane County

Kane County will offer its first-ever pumpkin-recycling event this year to help reduce waste.

“Jack-o’-lanterns, pumpkins and decorative squashes are highly compostable,” Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland said. “And it is a real shame to just send them to a landfill, when the nutrients they contain could instead be returned to soil that will grow more healthy food!”

See the event flyer here!

Jack-O’-Lantern Recycling Event

  • When: 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 5
  • Where: Pushing the Envelope Farm, 1700 Averill Road in Geneva.
  • What: Kane County will be accepting pumpkins and squashes for composting right on a farm! It is very important to keep it contaminant-free; just like food scrap composting.
  • Cost: Free to residents of Kane County.

What’s not recycled? Anything attached to or inside the Jack-o’-lantern — candles, yard hair, stickers, googly eyes, plastic ears or plastic of any kind — cannot be recycled. Only the jack-o’-lanterns themselves can be composted!

How ‘Pushing The Envelope Farm’ Got Involved

Recently, the Pushing the Envelope Farm contacted Jarland to see if the farm could be listed on the county website under the drop-offs for food scraps category.

(CREDIT: Pushing the Envelop Farm website)

(CREDIT: Pushing the Envelop Farm website)

“A lightbulb went off when they called, because I had been wanting to offer a pumpkin recycling event this year,” Jarland said. “And high on my wish list was to be able to collect the pumpkins right where they would get composted. So this was sheer serendipity — an ideal opportunity to create the program at no cost to county residents!”

Pushing the Envelope Farm is a community farm and education center that provides hands-on educational experiences and explores the Jewish connection to the land.

The farm offers the opportunity to experience sustainable agriculture firsthand. Its operators provide a wide variety of custom programs and workshops for individuals of all ages and groups such as schools, synagogues, churches, home-schooled students and Scouts.

The 14-acre site hosts organic farmers who tend a range of plots, from garden-size spaces to multiple acres of land. The gardens and farm animals give visitors a chance to experience life on the farm.

The farm also grows food for the Northern Illinois Food Bank and the Ark of Chicago. See some photos here. And read more about the history of the farm here.

Benefits of composting

Jarland is a founding board member of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition, working to advance food scrap composting in Illinois through program implementation, policy and advocacy.

we_compost_logo_plainIf you are interested in learning more, two more IFSC forums will be held this year. Jarland encourages you to attend at least one of them.

“They are free to attend and more information may be found on the Forum page of the IFSC website,” she said. “There is also more information about pumpkin composting events, should any cities or community groups be interested in holding an event of their own.”

The goal for this Kane County event, in addition to reducing valuable resources from being sent to the landfill, is to educate residents about composting and how to do it correctly. This means teaching residents about removing contaminants before composting, such as candles, stickers and any sort of decorations on their pumpkins.


Significant progress has been made in our state to facilitate collections of food scraps for composting. Illinois House Bill 437 — Organic Composting drop offs — was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on July 10, 2015, allowing temporary and permanent sites to collect organics for composting. Thanks to this success, the pumpkin collection programs continue with the support of the Illinois government.

History of Pumpkin Recycling Events in the Region

The first pumpkin recycling events in the northern Illinois region began three years ago with SCARCE, a non-profit organization in DuPage County that collects donations of text books, office and school supplies, musical instruments, Britta filters, and the list goes on. (See full list of items they accept here.) SCARCE then redistributes the donations through their in-house store. Check out this video to learn more about all of their programs.


Pumpkin composting events, while fairly new, are really taking off this year.

“Last year was a great success, with 12 sites collecting a total of 26.5 tons of pumpkins for composting,” said Kay McKeen, founder and executive director of SCARCE. “Think of all the water and nutrients that were sent back to Illinois’ soil! This year, we look forward to expanding the collection by working with more locations and helping more residents green their Halloween.”

See list of all participating locations for 2016 on SCARCE’s website.

Please visit the Kane County Recycles webpage for more information on the program.

Questions? Contact Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland at 630-208-3841 or