seasonal decor – making a trash pumpkin

Hello October! It feels like it was March both 10 seconds and 84 years ago, doesn’t it? Around this time last year, my friend Ellen took the world on a journey in her Instagram stories when she documented her creation of a trash pumpkin. Yes – a pumpkin made of garbage. While I prefer holiday decor to be natural materials (think gourds, pumpkins, leaves, pine cones, evergreen boughs, dried orange slices, etc) I was BEWITCHED by Ellen’s trash pumpkin. Watch this highlight and then come back for directions because there is no way you aren’t making a trash pumpkin after that.

These are so fun to make! It keeps things out of the landfill and makes use of what you have on hand – things like the nine hundred plastic bags you’ve accumulated during quarantine. It’s also a great activity to do with kids while you indoctrinate them into climate action. Pro tip though – make smaller pumpkins with them for time and sanity reasons. This is a multi-step project that involves drying time, so expect to spend an hour here and there until complete.


  • Plastic bags (different sizes)
  • Stuffing (bags, receipts, packaging, dryer lint, etc – must be clean and dry)
  • String or floral wire or elastic bands
  • Toilet paper tube
  • Glue (white or homemade)
  • Paper (newspaper, kraft paper, unneeded school/business papers, junk mail)
  • Art paintbrush
  • Paint (optional)
  • Markers or pencil crayons (optional)
  • Tape (optional)


1. Choose a bag and stuff if with your filling. Mine is just a grocery bag filled with other bags. I blew air into some of them for added lumpiness. Tie it shut.

2. Use string or similar to shape your pumpkin. It’s okay if it’s kind of wonky – the wonkier the better, in my opinion.

3. Attach your toilet roll “stem” to the bag. Cut some flaps into one end and place it flaps out over where you tied the bag shut. Tape or glue the flaps down and fold over the top edges to close it off and shape the stem.

4. Papier maché time! I used the quick and dirty method of glue slurry (about ⅔ white glue. ⅓ water) and torn strips of packing paper. Dip the paper in the glue and place it on the pumpkin, gently smoothing it out with your fingers or a paintbrush. My advice is to start on the bottom of the pumpkin to get a feel for the paper and glue, adding more water to the slurry if needed. Apply 2-3 layers (let dry between each) or until it feels sturdy and you like the look. 

Close up of the glue slurry, foam brush, and paper scraps with the partially complete trash pumpkin in the background.

5. Add colour! There are SO many ways to do this. You can use tissue paper, paint it, or do a decoupage technique with clippings from old magazines like I did. Painting it is a great way to use up leftovers in the garage or teach kids about mixing colours of craft paint. This part is a great opportunity to get creative here but allow me to tell you a cautionary tale. You may think that using glorious autumn foliage would look incredible as pumpkin skin, but nope! I tried softening them in water, tearing them into teeny tiny pieces, and even fired them through the food processor with the glue slurry resulting in a breastfed baby poop texture and appearance. Please believe me when I say that they do NOT want to be a pumpkin! This is how I landed on decoupage and yes, I cried.

That’s it! Your trash pumpkin works as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and general fall decor. When you no longer want to keep it, pass it on or break it down and find a new use for what’s inside. Like an Easter egg, but a pumpkin. A vegan holiday garbage turducken, if you will. Enjoy!

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