After the light goes out in your jack-o’-lantern, Iowa City will compost it

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The pumpkin patch at Bass Farms, Mount Vernon, Iowa. — Jav Ducker/Little Village

According to Irish legend, the original jack-o’-lantern was an accursed object carried by a man doomed to walk the Earth forever. On the plus side, that meant it never rotted. (It was also a hollowed-out turnip with a burning coal inside, not a smiling, candle-lit pumpkin.)

Contemporary jack-o’-lanterns, pumpkin or turnip, aren’t immortal, but their veggie cadavers can have a useful afterlife, thanks to the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center, which is ready to compost your pumpkins.

“If you have curbside composting, you can absolutely stick your pumpkins in your organic waste cart,” said Iowa City Recycling Coordinator Jane Wilch. “We’re still in the process of distributing the new carts, and curbside recycling customers who haven’t gotten one yet, can use any paper yard waste bag, or any plastic container that is 20 to 35 gallons, for yard waste and food scraps.” Although pumpkins can be put in the yard waste bags, food scraps need to be placed in plastic containers — any plastic garbage can meeting the size restrictions will work.

Yard waste stickers are no longer necessary, since the cost of curbside recycling is now covered by a $2 fee included a customer’s monthly utility bill.

“We do need people to remove any decorations from the pumpkin, as well as anything inside, like a candle, that isn’t compostable,” Wilch said.

There’s also a weight limit of 50 pounds for a bag or plastic container.

Those with pumpkins but without curbside recycling can take them to the Iowa City Landfill and Recycling Center, 3900 Hebl Avenue SW.

“Any Johnson County resident can take yard waste or food scraps out to the Iowa City Landfill at no cost,” Wilch said.

It takes about a year for organic waste to become useful compost, but when the process is complete, the compost is put on sale at the East Side Recycling Center, 2401 Scott Boulevard SE. It costs 50 cents for five gallons, and is sold on a bring-your-own-bucket basis.

A Disney-fied pumpkin. — Jav Ducker/Little Village

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