By Mike Pomranz
Updated October 30, 2015
Credit: © A. Astes / Alamy Stock Photo

Despite the seasonal craze around pumpkin spice, in the United States, pumpkins themselves aren’t really a coveted food. Maybe that’s why no one bats an eye when we leave jack-o'-lanterns out to rot on our porches every year.

So even though the Department of Energy doesn’t want to be as uptight as the person handing out toothbrushes to trick-or-treaters, they have decided to use Halloween as a chance to start a discussion about ways of converting our waste into energy.

According to their statistics, 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins are produced in the U.S. each year. And though pumpkin waste might be small percentage-wise compared to the over 500 billion pounds of municipal solid waste Americans dump into landfills annually, as anyone who’s ever walked the streets on November 1 can tell you, jack-o’-lanterns represent an easily identifiable form of waste people can relate to.

So what can we do? Unfortunately, not a whole lot yet. The government hasn’t set up old pumpkin drop-off locations on Main Street. But they want you to know they’re working on possible solutions.

“The Energy Department’s Bioenergy Technologies Office is working together with industry to develop and test integrated biorefineries—facilities capable of efficiently converting plant and waste material into affordable biofuels, biopower and other products,” they write on their website. Later they exclaim, “It might not be long until the 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins we produce annually are nearly as important to our energy security as they are to Halloween!”

In some ways, the Department of Energy is giving us all the guilt without any chance for reprieve. So thanks, government! Luckily, though, there is one short-term solution we can turn to in order to feel better: gorging on Halloween candy.