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Pumpkins contribute to landfill waste, climate change

File photo

File photo

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Thursday, October 29, 2015, 6:41 PM - Every year, 1.3 billion pumpkins are produced in the U.S. alone. Many are used for decorative purposes only, winding up in landfills after Halloween.

It takes a lot of land, water and, in some instances, pesticides to grow that many pumpkins and officials at the U.S. Department of Energy are taking the opportunity to remind the public of the strain that puts on the environment.

"With the passing of Halloween, millions of pounds of pumpkins have turned from seasonal decorations to trash destined for landfills, adding to more than 254 million tonnes of municipal solid waste (MSW) produced in the United States every year," the department writes on its website.

"At landfills, MSW decomposes and eventually turns into methane—a harmful greenhouse gas that plays a part in climate change, with more than 20 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide (CO2)."

That may spell bad news for the environment -- but in the future, officials hope to harness that waste and turn it into clean energy.

Courtesy: U.S. Department of Energy

"If 50% of U.S. municipal solid waste was converted into jet and diesel fuel, it would generate over 7.6 billion gallons of biofuel," the agency says.

The department is partnering with industry to develop and test bioenergy facilities that may eventually generate a steady supply of clean energy.

Authorities say the long-term plan will also limit stress on landfills by reducing waste.

There are no operational bioenergy facilities in the U.S. yet, and it will be some time before engineers can fine tune and mass produce the technology involved.

Discarded Jack-o'-lanterns may one day play an important role in the development of clean energy, but that dream may still be a few years off.

Source: U.S. Energy Department


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