Metro, Newton

Goodbye Pumpkins, Hello Compost

Pumpkin guts laid in piles as families, students, adults, and even Mayor Ruthanne Fuller gathered at Newton City Hall and War Memorial to smash their jack-o’-lanterns. The slogan “don’t trash it, smash it” promoted the city’s second annual Pumpkin Smash on Saturday. 

“The goal is to collect pumpkins to compost them and then to raise awareness about composting in general and getting food out of the waste stream,” Waneta Trabert, an organizer of the event and Newton’s sustainable materials management director said. “We collected 20,000 pounds of pumpkins in 2019, and we expect a similar turnout.”

Two trucks from Black Earth Compost, a commercial composting company that serves the Eastern Massachusetts area, are responsible for collecting the pumpkin remains to be composted, according to Trabert.

(Steve Mooney / Heights Staff)

To spread awareness about composting, Green Newton—an organization dedicated to improving the environment—set up signs outside to inform attendees about the positive effects of composting. One sign explained the term organics management, which refers to diverting food scraps, yard waste, and other products that can break down in nature rather than in the trash. 

The signs also explained that in Massachusetts over 25 percent of the trash stream is food and organic waste that could have been composted. 

The first Pumpkin Smash was held in 2019, and Trabert explained that she felt that the event ran more smoothly and was better organized this year—with more to do so, from the Green Newton fact boards to tables set up with information about composting to a food truck with a picnic area. 

The first event featured a pumpkin catapult, a pumpkin target practice, and a pumpkin basketball hoop. 

“We worked hard to enhance the educational component this year,” Trabert said. “We tried to make it so that folks had more stuff to do, so it is definitely worth the trip.”

Along with all the compost collected, there was a collection drive for leftover Halloween candy that will be sent to U.S. military troops and a clothes rack to donate to as well as swap out old Halloween costumes with. 

Music played in the background while people roamed each station. These stations included four smashing stations—catapulting a pumpkin, throwing a pumpkin against spikes, simply slamming a pumpkin on the ground, and interacting with a pumpkin-smashing robot created by the Ligerbots, the joint Newton North High School and Newton South High School robotics team. 

“Every year, the organization called First releases a game for us to build a robot to play [with],” Evan Morgan, a Ligerbots member, said. “For this pumpkin smasher event, we built what we call the Smashateen, and basically we have our robot shoot a ball that hits a target.”

(Kate Clarke / For The Heights)

Morgan explained that the robot is controlled by an Xbox controller. Kids use the controller to make the robot shoot plastic balls at the target by pressing the “Y” key. Then, the target falls backward from the force of the ball, triggering a massive crate filled with bricks to smash the pumpkins placed underneath it. 

Volunteers placed the pumpkins underneath a structure that looked like a guillotine, and the pumpkin owner then had the opportunity to trigger the drop of the guillotine weight. By pressing “Y,” the robot shot a ball at a target that was attached to the guillotine. The target fell backward and released the weight to then plummet down and crush the pumpkin. 

At the catapult station, kids waited patiently in the long line as they held their pumpkins tightly against their chests. Then, the volunteers placed the pumpkins on a platform and set up the cord that would launch the pumpkins.

(Steve Mooney / Heights Staff)

Fourth-grader Lilah grinned as she tugged the cord that catapulted her carved pumpkin into the air and then cracked on the ground. 

“It is a good way to have fun instead of just composting,” Lilah said. “[Composting] is really good for the Earth, and it can help stop landslides.”

Featured Image by Steve Mooney / Heights Staff

November 8, 2021