Around 47,000 pumpkins will be bought by Cambridge City and South Cambridgeshire residents this Halloween, but what happens to them after they have served their ghoulish purpose is scary.
Sadly, only a third will be eaten, with a quarter ending up in black bins. The rest, just over a third, will be composted or put into food and garden waste bins – but this is still a waste, say councillors.
Executive Councillor for Environment, Climate Change and Biodiversity for Cambridge City Council, Cllr Rosy Moore said: “All types of pumpkin are edible, including those sold for carving at Halloween. Nationally, about 18,000 tonnes of pumpkin go to waste each year, which is a shocking waste of food. I encourage all our residents to rescue their pumpkin from the doorstep straight after Halloween and make a tasty soup, curry, lasagne or cake with the flesh while it’s still fresh – it’s part of the fun!”
Perhaps the most genuinely frightening thing sneaking into bins are ‘zombie batteries’ – batteries which come back from the dead to wreak havoc by setting fire to bin lorries and recycling facilities.
Cllr Moore said: “Batteries should never be put into any of your bins at home. We’ve seen a worrying increase in the frequency of fires caused by batteries, which put our staff at risk and damage expensive lorries and equipment. No-one wants to see a burning pile of rubbish emptied out onto the street, which is what our crews have to do when this happens. So please, please save up your batteries separately and either take them with you to large shops that sell batteries, which have recycling bins for them, or in Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire you can place them in a small plastic bag on top of the lid of your blue bin.”
Another terrifying source of waste is fancy dress costumes. Most are worn only twice, with 2 in 5 only worn once. It is estimated that 7 million costumes are thrown in the bin each year in the UK.
Lead Cabinet Member for the Environment at South Cambridgeshire District Council, Cllr Brian Milnes said: “Clothing including fancy dress costumes should not be put into any wheelie bins. Arranging a costume swap at your school or community centre is a great way for everyone to get a new outfit without the waste – but even if this is not possible charity shops will be happy to receive them.”
Councils are also encouraging residents to get creative and make a costume from items they have around their home already, reducing waste by avoiding the need to buy anything new.
Cllr Milnes said: “We always advocate reducing waste first, before reusing or recycling. That usually means thinking about whether you need to buy something at all. There are lots of fun costumes you can make without any special skills like sewing – search online and get the kids involved.”
Environmental campaign charity Hubbub has instructions and videos for a coming up with a variety of home-made costumes, as well as tips for eating your pumpkin.
And the trick to sorting out the waste from all those treats, councils say, is to choose those in recyclable packaging.
Cllr Milnes says: “Sweet wrappers aren’t generally recyclable, but there are many chocolate treats that come wrapped in aluminium foil, which is recyclable. Foil can be recycled over and over, being made into anything from drinks cans to aeroplane parts. Scrunch small pieces of foil into a ball together with larger bits to help them to get through all the sorting machinery at the recycling plant – then pop into your blue bin.”