Experts issue warning against this common method for getting rid of pumpkins after Halloween

The best ways to dispose of a pumpkin this spooky season

 A pair of wellington boots, basket of pumpkins and dried autumn leaves on a doorstep outside a wooden clad building.
(Image credit: Future PLC/Dan Duchars)

For years, popping a pumpkin out into the woods or great outdoors post-Halloween has been marketed as a tasty treat for wildlife. But now, environmental experts have issued a stark warning against this common disposal method. 

Every year, millions of pumpkins are bought from supermarkets and pumpkin patches across the UK. As soon as pumpkins are cut, and the flesh is open to the elements, they start to decompose. No-carve pumpkin ideas will always last longer than carved pumpkins, but there will always come a time when you need to get rid of them.

However, Forestry England has issued an urgent warning against leaving your pumpkins in the woods post-Halloween. They have told people to ignore tips online recommending it as it could prove dangerous to wildlife. 

Dumping pumpkins in the woods warning

Andrew Stringer, Environment and Forest planner at Forestry England, explains, ‘We see many posts on social media encouraging people to leave pumpkins in the woods for wildlife to eat, but please do not do this.’

Of course, it’s understandable why people would do such a thing. As pumpkins are natural organic matter, it's easy to assume that this leftover squash will serve as a tasty meal for the animals of the woods. Andrew says this isn’t the case, though. 

‘Feeding pumpkins, or any other food in the forest, to birds, foxes, badgers, deer, and boar can spread disease and make them unwell.’

Not only that, but you also need to think about how pumpkins are used at this time of year - especially if you’re someone who loves to bring exciting Halloween decorating ideas to life. 

‘Pumpkins are also often decorated and have things such as candles in them. Animals eating the pumpkins could then eat a foreign object, and this could kill them,’ Andrew adds. 

How to dispose of pumpkins after Halloween

There are so many other eco-friendly ways to get rid of pumpkins after Halloween, allowing you to rest easy knowing that you’re doing your bit for the environment - and keeping your house free of mushy pumpkins. Here are some of our favourites:

1. Eat the innards

If you love the idea of a no-carve pumpkin and want to bring a DIY floral pumpkin to life, you might have a whole pumpkin at your disposal after Halloween - innards and all. If so, you can head into the kitchen and cook up a storm. 

Steven Carter-Bailey, Head Tutor and Manager at the ProCook Cookery School suggests, ‘Up your baking game and use your Halloween pumpkin for some suitable autumnal treats. Using freshly made pumpkin puree, you can make a number of delicious goodies, from spiced pumpkin brownies to the American favourite, pumpkin pie.’ 

Of course, this will leave you with the pumpkin skin. But don’t worry; there are so many ways to make use of that, too. 

2. Make a bird feeder

Although the skin of a pumpkin is edible, it’s not the nicest thing to eat. It’s extremely tough and often takes too long to cook, so it’s best to use the shell for another purpose once you’ve eaten the innards. In fact, it makes the perfect bird feeder! And if you have a whole pumpkin carcass at your disposal, you can actually make two bird feeders.

All you have to do is cut the pumpkin in half to make two smaller bowls, cut some holes into the side and hang them to a tree using wire or some hardy rope. Then, fill it with birdseed and watch as the birds enjoy this tasty treat. 

3. Donate them

If you’re not sure what to do with your pumpkin after Halloween, why don’t you donate it? There will most likely be many zoos, farms, charities, community gardens, and neighbours near your home who will happily accept pumpkin donations. 

However, it’s important to note that these places might not accept any pumpkins painted or decorated with non-organic materials. So, just make sure you check carefully firstly if they accept pumpkins and any condition requirements.

4. Bury it

We already know that leaving old pumpkins out in the woods or in your garden is harmful to wildlife, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t let them decompose naturally outside at all. You just have to be a little smarter about it - and this involves burying it in small chunks in your garden or on your compost heap.  

Alex Fraysse, Naturopath, Herbalist and founder of Spellbound, suggests, ‘Break up or chop your pumpkin into smaller pieces and place in a bin for 8-12 weeks for some really great compost creation. Also, feel free to smash the pumpkins if you have post-Halloween anger or sugar overload.’

‘This will create a wonderful build-up of nitrogen, and with the vitamins and minerals already present, will be perfect soil food.’

5. Put it in your food waste bin

If your local council provides you with a food/garden waste bin that gets collected on a regular basis, you can simply chop up your pumpkin and pop it on top of your potato peelings and apple cores. 

This is an easy way to get rid of your pumpkin after Halloween, but it’s important to note that this does vary from council to council. While some councils encourage you to dispose of your old pumpkins in such a way, there are others that have strict rules against them.

So, it’s always best to check with your local authority before putting your pumpkin in the food waste bin.

6. Turn them into planters

If you’re looking for a way to use a leftover pumpkin and a way to calm down the kids after their Halloween sugar high, you could also turn your old pumpkins into planters. 

Rachel Watkyn, eco-entrepreneur and founder of Tiny Box Company, says, ‘For little ones, pumpkins look great as planters in the garden and add a bit of colour to the winter palette. Simply fill the pumpkin with soil and get the children to choose a couple of plants to pop in.’

Of course, these pumpkin planters will continue to decompose as the days wear on, but they’ll provide your plants with vital nutrients before transferring the plants to a different pot. Alternatively, transfer these plants into the ground with leftover pieces of pumpkin as fertiliser.  


What should you do with pumpkins after Halloween?

You should never dump a pumpkin in the woods after Halloween. Instead, focus on eco-friendly ways to dispose of your leftover pumpkins in a way that won’t be harmful to animals. You could use the pumpkin yourself in some autumnal recipes, or you could make it into a bird feeder for the birds to enjoy. 

Why not to dump pumpkins?

Although it may seem like a good idea to dump pumpkins outside for the animals to enjoy, this could be doing more harm than good. These pumpkins may carry diseases, and if they’ve been decorated, they may contain harmful materials that could result in the death of these animals. 

So, it’s best to dispose of your pumpkins in a more eco-friendly way. 

Can pumpkins go in garden waste UK?

This depends on where you live and the rules of your local authority. While some councils do allow you to put leftover pumpkins into your garden or food waste bin, there are others that don’t allow such a thing. 

Always check with your council’s rules before putting your pumpkin in your garden waste bin after Halloween.

So, make sure you’re disposing of your pumpkin properly this Halloween. 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.