Pumpkin Recycling Program

Union County residents can put their Jack o’ Lanterns to good use after Halloween by participating in Union County’s Pumpkin Recycling Program, which returns this November after being a smash hit for the last few years.

The pumpkins will be collected by municipal departments of public works and brought to an organic waste recycler in Elizabeth, where they will be transformed into green energy.  This program will be coordinated by the Union County Bureau of Recycling and Planning.

“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 County Commission Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “We hope the #SmashItDontTrashIt pumpkin recycling campaign boosts public awareness about how we can keep food waste from going to waste.”

The program has grown in 2023.  There will now be six municipal locations available for residents to drop off their pumpkins off at in 2023, versus the three. Residents from any municipality in Union County can use any of these locations, regardless of their home town.

The program runs from Wednesday, November 1 through Monday, November 27, and each location is open from 9:00 am to 2:30 pm. The locations are:

  • 101 Berkeley Avenue in Berkeley Heights (the Berkeley Heights Department of Public Works, next to the new Municipal Complex)
  • 523 Trenton Avenue in Elizabeth (the Elizabeth Municipal Recycling Yard)
  • 1300 Lamberts Mill Road in Westfield (the Westfield Conservation Center)
  • 2 Donaldson Place in Linden (the municipal recycling yard)
  • 401 Sheridan Avenue in Kenilworth (the Kenilworth Public Works complex)
  • 95 Rock Avenue in Plainfield (the Plainfield Transfer Station).

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

The Pumpkin Recycling Program will send pumpkins to the CORe facility in Elizabeth, which is operated by the firm Waste Management. The company’s proprietary recycling system converts food waste into 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. Each year, in the United States, 119 billion pounds of food is wasted, which equates to 130 billion meals and more than $408 billion in food thrown away each year.  Shockingly, nearly 40% of all food in America is wasted. 

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.