Each year, after West Virginia University’s annual Pumpkin Drop is completed and the competitors have gone home, a crew from Facilities Management is tasked with cleaning up the smashed pumpkins, seeds, hay, packing material and blankets. For the past 25 years, all of it made its way to the landfill.
But this year, thanks to the efforts of Garth Lindley, associate director of development in the Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, that all has changed.
“Last year I happened to be walking past the area where the Pumpkin Drop is held after it was over,” Lindley said. “I made the assumption that some effort would be made to recycle the material after the event. Instead what I saw was everything being loaded into one truck. So it was clear it was all going to the landfill. I decided then that I would offer to coordinate the recycling for the Pumpkin Drop in 2013.”
Organizing this type of effort is a passion for Lindley, who runs a nonprofit organization called Eco Race Events. An avid runner, Lindley started the operation three years ago after noticing all the recyclable items that were sent to landfills after races. The organization provides container stations for waste collection – i.e., plastic water bottles, banana peels – as well as water jugs to allow runners to fill reusable water bottles or cups. They also collect used shoes, clothes and trophies, which can be reused or recycled.
“I had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done, but the Pumpkin Drop is a unique event which creates a high volume of material in a short period of time,” he said.
Lindley quickly got to work, meeting with representatives from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering’s Pumpkin Drop Committee to explain what he had in mind and how it all could be done efficiently and safely. Then he met with representatives from Facilities Management to plan the logistics of the cleanup.
“We provided trucks to assist in the separation of cardboard, pumpkins and waste material,” said Byron Smith, director of roads and grounds in WVU Facilities Management. “About 18 members of the roads and grounds crew were on hand throughout the day to support the event.”
Michelle Poland, an academic adviser in freshman engineering, helped Lindley find student volunteers to work the event. “The students worked in two-hour shifts breaking down the contraptions used to cushion the pumpkins to sort out what could be recovered,” Lindley said. “They then loaded it into the appropriate trucks. Believe it or not, despite the sometimes messy nature of the work, I had several students say they had a lot of fun.”
When it was all said and done, the efforts of all involved were remarkable.
“There was so much recycling that we filled the recycling truck – crushing everything several times – and filled two more one-ton dump trucks,” said Lindley, who took a day of annual leave to lead the event. “The total weight of the recycling (cardboard, plastic bottles, plastic containers and newspaper) was 1,100 pounds. One dump truck was filled with pumpkins, hay, seeds, corn and popcorn, all of which went the WVU Farm for composting.”
John Yost, farm operator in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, said the partnership with Pumpkin Drop coordinators has helped expand composting and recycling efforts already in place.
“The Animal and Nutritional Sciences Farm is collecting leaves and other yard waste from around the WVU campus to incorporate into our composting operation,” he said. “Following the composting process, the finished product is applied to the farm’s crop and pasture fields to grow feed for livestock.”
The students, which included representatives from both the Statler and Davis colleges, also collected 21 55-gallon bags of packing material, which was taken to the UPS Store for re-use, as well as 15 55-gallon bags of pillows, blankets, clothes and stuffed animals that were donated to Salvation Army and Goodwill.
“I really appreciate the efforts of everyone at WVU who helped me accomplish such a successful event in only our first attempt,” Lindley said. “I already have some ideas for how we can even make this better in the years to come. I hope to establish a series of guidelines for how to recycle and compost at this event so it continues long into the future.”
CONTACT: Mary C. Dillon, Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
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