Opinion: Pumpkin waste is the biggest scare of all this Halloween!


By Councillor Paul West.

pumpkin recipesWinter is well and truly upon us – the clocks have gone back leaving us with darker evenings and I have recently put the heating on at home!

This week also sees the start of winter celebrations, with Halloween taking place on Thursday. It seems to grow in both popularity and commercialism each year. It’s certainly a treat for retailers – last year UK consumers spent an estimated £419 million on Halloween, which is almost double the £230 million spent in 2013.

Whilst we can be grateful of the economic boost it provides to the county, with several Fright Nights taking place across Suffolk – unfortunately over 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin end up in the bin each year. 

Why not be #foodsavvy and join the 33% of people who cook the edible part into a tasty treat. Find out how to whip up some culinary magic with pumpkin recipes ranging from curry to cupcakes on the Hubbub website.

Personally, I find a bowl of hearty pumpkin soup to be the perfect winter warmer. You only need to add butter, cream, stock, onion and seasoning to your pumpkin – meaning you save on both cash and food waste. 15 million pumpkins are binned every Halloween, which scarily is enough to make a bowl of pumpkin soup for everyone in Britain – I think we’re going to need a bigger saucepan!

After Halloween your Jack O’Lantern may be looking a little down in the mouth. 25% of used pumpkins will end up in landfills this year, if yours can’t be eaten, it's much more environmentally friendly to dispose of it in your home-composting bin.

Whilst you’re out composting in the garden, keep a lookout for hedgehogs. I was appalled to hear of their recent mistreatment in Ipswich. Now is the time when they’re looking for food and places to nest, before they hibernate for five months. Leave areas of the garden 'wild', with piles of leaf litter and logs. These are an attractive nest as well as a home for the invertebrates (slugs, beetles) that hedgehogs like to eat.

Unfortunately, this means that your bonfire pile could be mistaken as a nest by hedgehogs looking for a home. If possible, leave it until the day to build your bonfire, as this will reduce the chances of hedgehogs hibernating in there. You should also use broom handles to lift from the base of the pile and shine torches, looking and listening carefully for any signs of life.

Once Halloween and Bonfire Night are over, the countdown to Christmas will begin. With just over eight weeks to go until the big day, it’s time for us all to think about how we’ll reduce, reuse and recycle - as I’m sure you’ll agree that a green Christmas is a gift we’d all like. 

Speaking of gifts – instead of sending out Christmas cards why not give e-cards and donate the money you would have spent on cards and postage to your favourite charity? This is a great way to help those in need whilst also helping the environment – around one billion Christmas cards are purchased in the UK each year and those with glittery designs cannot be recycled.

There’s also no time like the present to make sure it’s a wrap for Christmas packaging waste. A staggering 227,000 miles of wrapping paper is thrown away every year – enough to circulate the equator nine times over! Most wrapping paper is suitable for recycling, unless it’s of the shiny metallic or glitter variety. You can easily check this by scrunching the paper; if it stays in a ball shape, it should be recyclable.

Sadly, it’ll be lonely for many people this Christmas - over 2 million people aged 75 or over live alone, with over 200,000 saying they go a month without speaking to a friend or relative. If you’re able to give the gift of time, why not think about volunteering to become an Age UK Suffolk Befriender? This will help the 1 in 10 people in Suffolk aged 60 or over, who say that they’re often or always lonely. If this something you could do, find out more about the Befriending scheme.

If you’d like to help your community not just at Christmas but all year round, you can find out about volunteering from Community Action Suffolk. My wife volunteers for the Girl Guides and I’ve seen first-hand the joy it brings to both her and others. 

#BeCaring is part of our #WinterReady campaign, which launched yesterday. You probably already know what we do to keep you safe, in fact some of you may have seen our Spread Sheeran and Snow Patrol gritters out on tour over the past few days.

That’s why we’re doing something different this winter and will be highlighting how you can help yourself and others, on our social media channels over the coming weeks. We want all of Suffolk to #BeSafe, #BeGreen, #BeCaring and #BeHealthy and we’d like to share any tips you may have on our Winter Ready webpages. Tweet us or tag us in your Facebook posts, using #WinterReady.

We may not be able to rely on the weather, but I hope you’ll join me in showing that here in Suffolk we can rely on our council, each other and ourselves to stay safe, green, caring and healthy whatever comes our way this winter.