Most people recommend against the addition of bread to a compost pile. But stale bread is organic just like any other kitchen waste, and rots just the same. This can leave people wondering if it’s really a good idea to include bread, or if they should leave it out altogether.
So, can you compost bread? Yes, bread can easily be composted. Bread will decompose quickly and add a source of nitrogen to your compost pile. But any food scraps can also attract pests. Your decision whether or not to compost bread mostly depends on your method of composting.
With the right level of preparation, there is no reason you should leave it out. It can add to your compost just like any other organic waste.
But some composting methods may be better suited than others for dealing with bread and food scraps from your kitchen.
Read on to find out the best practices for composting bread…
Can You Compost Bread?
Most of the opinions I’ve read about composting bread warn people about the dangers of attracting pests. Rodents and creepy crawlies think bread is great, and will do their best to feast on it!
That’s the only justification I could find for not adding bread to compost.
But why waste such a valuable source of organic material? And why send something to landfill if you can recycle it?
While there may be potential drawbacks to adding bread into your compost pile, for some people it’s still worth it.
So if you’re like me and you hate the idea of letting your stale bread products going in the trash, here are some of the advantages, disadvantages, and tips about composting bread, and how to minimize the risk of pests.
Reasons to Compost Bread
Very simply, bread is organic matter, and as such it can be added to your compost pile. If you regularly have bread that’s getting thrown away, it may serve a better purpose to you as compost.
Unlike certain types of food waste such as dairy products, bread will not imbalance the mix of your compost pile or slow down the composting process.
When you throw bread away, it will just end up in a landfill. Food waste is a very real problem, with up to 40% of food in the United States never getting eaten. For some people, this is reason enough to take the necessary steps to reuse it as compost.
As a compost material, bread breaks down incredibly fast. Once exposed to moisture, it will practically fall apart on contact, especially when it’s already in small pieces.
Reasons Not to Compost Bread
Bread as a compost material has the potential to draw animal pests such as rodents to your compost pile. This is the number one reason you will find for not adding any bread whatsoever.
While bread can bring unwanted visitors to your compost, there are ways to prevent these pests. With a little forethought and preparation, composting your bread doesn’t have to cause you unnecessary anxiety.
Composting in an enclosed bin or a compost bin with a lid will help keep the pests from finding your tasty food scraps. Even in an open compost bin, just making sure that all of the pieces of bread are well covered will help prevent a pest problem from arising.
Storing compostable bread and food scraps
You don’t want to run to the bin every time you have some left over bread. I deal with bread waste in the same way I do other kitchen scraps.
First of all break the bread into smaller pieces. This makes storage easier until you take a trip to the compost pile, but it will also help the decomposition process once it reaches the compost bin.
You can store food scraps in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Alternatively you can stockpile all your compostable kitchen waste in a compost caddy or pail until you take them to the compost bin. But be careful about odors! You’d be surprised how quickly a caddy of food wate can become smelly ! Look for a caddy which includes charcoal filtersto help prevent odors and can easily be washed (See this handy version on Amazon which is big enough for a week’s worth of food waste and also insect proof !).
Alternatively you can put a bucket outside your kitchen door for collecting scraps. To prevent odors and fruit flies you can try keeping a second bucket full of sawdust, or finished compost, and sprinkle some of this over the food waste.
How to Best Incorporate Bread in Your Compost
- Break it up. Breaking down the bread into smaller pieces before adding it to your compost will ensure that it decomposes faster. This will give animals less of a chance of being attracted to your pile.
- Dig into the center of your compost pile. Place your bread and other food scraps in the middle. The most heat is generated at the center, which speeds up decomposition. This also makes it less easily found by pests.
- Completely cover it up. Use a material that is high in carbon like sawdust or dry leaves to create a layer over the bread. It’s always a good idea to balance the mix of carbon and nitrogen materials in your compost – this promotes a more efficient decomposition process.
- Further speed up decomposition. If you would feel better giving nature more of a boost, you can add some garden soil, manure, or already finished compost on top of the bread to help it break down even faster.
- Replace the compost. Fill the hole back in with all of the compost you dug out to cover the bread up entirely. This helps hide it from any rodents or other pests lurking around.
These suggestions mostly apply to an open compost system. However if you use a closed compost tumbler you don’t even have to worry about pests. Compost tumblers (take a peek at this one on Amazon) are a great choice for beginners, produce less odors, and of course keep out pests like rodents. They also make is easy to aerate the compost because of the rotating design. And turning compost regularly is essential to good composting.
Can You Compost Moldy or Stale Bread?
Stale bread is the best kind to compost (If your bread is still fresh, then you’re better off eating it). Once it goes out of date, though, it’s the perfect candidate for tossing into your compost.
Moldy bread is even better for composting. The fact that it has mold on it means that it’s already started the process of decomposing all on its own. Adding moldy bread to your compost is just helping nature along.
Whatever the type of bread, if you’re not going to consume it yourself, then it can make a delicious treat for the organisms in your compost.
Is Bread Brown or Green Compost?
There are conflicting opinions on which of the two categories, bread should be placed in when it comes to compost.
A quick reminder – brown materials are those which have a high carbon content, and green materials have a higher nitrogen content. Both are needed for good composting but they should be balanced correctly.
Some people list bread and grains under the brown category, suggesting it is a material with higher carbon content. This might be because bread is really good for pulling moisture out of other food scraps like vegetables. Alternatively, maybe it’s just because it’s brown in color.
Green materials don’t actually have to be green. Coffee grounds, for instance, are a green material. They are very much, not green.
The reality is, bread is higher in nitrogen content, which would put it in the green category.
This is important to know because the ratio of carbon to nitrogen producing materials in your compost pile is essential to how well it functions. Only about 1/3 of your compost should be comprised of green materials.
Now that you know that bread is in fact considered green, you can keep your ratio just right.
Can You Compost Things Similar to Bread?
Along with bread comes questions of other food scraps that closely relate to it. Many people want to know if it’s safe to throw their leftover pasta into the compost bin. Or maybe they have some leftover cake that nobody touched.
While these things are closely related in what makes them up, they are very much separate categories when it comes to composting.
There is nothing wrong with putting cooked pasta in your compost bin.
You want to make sure that the pasta you add doesn’t have any sort of fatty or creamy sauce on it which can imbalance your compost. Plain pasta works best when it comes to composting.
If your pasta has a lot of oil on it, it may do more harm than good. Having too much oil in your compost pile can slow down the composting process and prevents tiny organisms from breaking things down.
Just like with bread, baked goods have the potential of drawing pests. Because of the amount of sugar in baked foods, ants can become a problem.
It’s perfectly possible to compost your baked goods, but you should handle them with the same process that you handle bread to ensure they won’t bring about any nasty little pests.
Of course, this only applies if baked goods make it to the point of being thrown away in your house !
Go with Your Gut
Bread isn’t harmful to compost but as with other types of food waste your compost will need more care and attention. Turn regularly to help aerate the pile and prevent anaerobic decomposition (the bacteria responsible for this lets off some foul odours). Add enough brown material to maintain a healthy balance, and do whatever you can to avoid pests reaching the bread. There are potential drawbacks to including bread in your compost, but at the end of the day, if you’re willing to take the right steps to correctly compost your stale bread, there’s no reason you can’t do it.