Every Halloween in the UK, we throw away more than 12 million perfectly edible pumpkins. Philip Simpson, commercial director at ReFood, explains why we need to think twice this October – and what we can do differently – to prevent food waste from being left to rot in landfill.
Recent statistics suggest that only 42% of ‘trick or treaters’ know that the fleshy innards of pumpkins are edible, with most people (85%) not even considering the squash as food at all.* But that misconception needs to change. High in fibre, calcium and magnesium, pumpkins are a real superfood. Their seeds, when toasted, are rich in potassium and protein. Better still, an average portion counts as one of your five-a-day, while high concentrations of vitamins A and C improve your eyesight and protect the skin.
Granted, carving pumpkins is fun and certainly gets children away from screentime for a couple of hours, but the scale of wasted food at Halloween is truly shocking. Indeed, based on figures from food waste charity Hubbub, if the UK’s 12 million wasted pumpkins were laid out on football pitches, they would fill more than 2,600 stadiums. If we instead cooked these pumpkins, we could make enough soup for everyone in Britain to have a bowl.
Pumpkins may not yet be part of our staple diet, but that is changing for the better. A Google search for ‘pumpkin recipes’ comes back with more than five million results – plenty of options for aspiring chefs! From pumpkin pie to pumpkin gnocchi, soups, waffles and even pumpkin curry – the list of recipe options is huge. The alternative is leaving perfectly edible vegetables to rot in landfill, which creates greenhouse gases 21 times more damaging to the environment than CO2.
Make a change this Halloween
At ReFood, we’re encouraging people to do something different this year – at a time when world leaders at COP26 are seeking to reduce harmful emissions contributing to global warming. By all means, carve out your ghoulish gourds, show them off on the doorstep, but this year finish your Halloween celebrations by making or baking something special. Fiendish fun with a clear environmental conscience!
We see food waste as the real Halloween horror story. When you consider the sheer number of people suffering from food poverty, as well as the significant environmental consequences caused by improper disposal, it’s clear that something must be done.
Eating what we can and reducing what we waste should be our national priority. For any surplus, we should redistribute it to those in need. For inedible waste or out-of-date produce, we should prioritise anaerobic digestion (AD) to harness the value from such an important resource.
With three state-of-the-art AD facilities across the UK, we turn more than 400,000 tonnes of food waste into renewable energy every year. Our ambition is to see zero food waste to landfill right across the UK, including pumpkins at this time of year.
Our message is therefore clear – when you’re carving your pumpkin this Halloween, think twice about unnecessary food waste. Why not try a new recipe? Why not save the seeds? If you have a food waste caddy, use it! Most importantly, don’t throw your pumpkin into landfill – it’s a terrible waste.
To find out more about ReFood, or its food waste recycling services, visit www.refood.co.uk.
* Hubbub food charity survey 2020