If you have a compost pile, you probably already know that it is a tricky process. Sure, you can add all of these organic materials from your kitchen and your yard, but not too much of one or the other or else the pile might fail!
It’s definitely worth the effort, but it can be frustrating having to double-check everything that you can toss in there. It will be a shame to slow down the process over one innocent mistake.
How about bread, for instance? Can you compost bread?
Yes, you can compost bread. As long as the bread doesn’t contain it too much sugar or dairy products and you take some simple steps to keep pests out of your pile you can include bread as a green addition.
Simple as that. In my travels, the great argument over whether or not bread is suitable for inclusion in a compost pile to say nothing of beneficial is greatly overblown.
If you got some stale bread it’s probably just fine to toss in your compost pile, but as always there are a couple of catches.
Keep reading, and I’ll tell you what you need to know about boosting your compost pile with bread.
You Can Generally Compost Bread Safely
Don’t let the naysayers tell you otherwise: tossing bread in your compost pile is a perfectly reasonable and useful addition so long as you follow a few simple rules.
Like everything else you add, it has pros and cons, but done right it will contribute to the quality of the compost, and help along all those microorganisms and insects working on your behalf.
So, what does done right mean? We’ll get to that, point by point, but first let’s take care of some fundamentals when it comes to composting bread.
Bread Breaks Down Fast
You probably already knew this! Bread tends to go bad fast in your kitchen or your pantry. That means that when you toss it out, it will also break down fast in the compost pile. That’s good.
As with all organic materials added to the compost pile, bread provides nourishment for microorganisms and insects that help break down other food waste.
It also means you won’t be worrying about bread hanging on in that semi-perpetual state of rot that can make a compost pile so darned stinky. This is definitely something in bread’s favor for composting!
Can You Compost Fresh Bread?
Yes. Fresh bread can be composted normally, though I would recommend against the wasting of good food unless the bread tastes bad or is otherwise inedible.
That said there is no other reason why you cannot use fresh bread, so feel free.
Can You Compost Stale Bread?
Absolutely, and it is likely stale bread you will choose for composting. Instead of throwing your bread in the garbage where it will head for the dump or struggling through eating it, you should definitely consider adding it to the compost pile.
Stale bread is one of the best choices you can make for your compost, as it is already on its way towards decomposition.
Is it Okay to Compost Moldy Bread?
Yes, definitely. Bread goes from “stale” to “moldy” in the blink of an eye, and when it is moldy that is your sure sign that it is already decomposing. It’s no loss: toss it in with your other kitchen scraps headed for the compost bin.
Bread is a “Green”, Not a “Brown”
One thing to note is which category of compost inclusion bread fits into. Bread is definitely a “green” since it will add plenty of nitrogen to the pile.
Compost piles should contain both “green” and “brown” items, with browns being the more carbon-rich inclusions such as leaves, newspaper, cardboard, and other dry materials.
So treat your bread like all the other green inclusions, and take care not to add too much: it’s not a brown item even though it can be brown in color!
Adding too many greens will result in a stinking mess of sludgy, anaerobic compost, but so long as you keep the balance right your bread addition will be just fine.
Caution: Bread Will Easily Attract Pests
This is the chief complaint that the anti-bread brigade will level at its addition to an otherwise healthy compost pile: it attracts pests, specifically rodents, dogs and other critters to include ants.
Sadly, this is absolutely true. Bread will indeed attract pests to your pile but only if left exposed.
Animals do live the stuff, and even though you cannot really smell it they sure can, and will be drawn to it. This can spell problems for your pile at various stages of development
You can reduce the chances of this happening by breaking down, covering and burying bread in your compost pile when you add it. You don’t even have to have a tumbler or covered pile.
The next sections will tell you exactly what to do.
Don’t Use Breads Containing Lots of Sugars
One thing you should keep an eye on is the amount of sugar in any bread you add. A little sugar won’t hurt.
A lot of sugar will be a massive draw for ants, and may possibly disrupt the balance of beneficial microbes in your pile.
If the bread has added sugars, or if it is sweetened, then either don’t add it at all, or at least reduce the amount when burying it in the compost bin.
A good rule of thumb is that if the bread obviously tastes sweet, don’t add it (e.g. cakes, cookies, cupcakes).
Don’t Use Breads Containing Dairy Products
Another problematic food for compost is dairy products, and any bread containing dairy products.
All are notorious for blowing the balance of the compost pile, and it is best to stay away from them.
If you are not sure if your bread contains dairy then think twice. The same rule above applies here: if the bread has butter, cheese, milk or eggs in it, then don’t add it to your compost bin as this increases the likelihood of issues.
Steps for Adding Bread to Your Compost Pile
The following steps will ensure that your bread breaks down quickly and won’t attract any critters to your compost pile that you don’t want.
Step 1: Tear or Cut Bread into Small Chunks Before Adding
Don’t just throw whole buns, loaves or slices of bread into your compost pile. Tear or chop it up into smaller, crouton-sized chunks first.
This will ensure it breaks down quicker, and also make it easier to mask the smell of the bread from pests.
Step 2: Dig a Small Hole in Center of Pile
Scrap or dig a small hole in the center of your compost pile, and toss the bread chunks into it.
This will prevent it from simply sitting on top of the pile and attracting critters, as well as encouraging speedy decomposition.
Step 3: Cover Bread with Manure or other Additions
Don’t cover the bread back up just yet. If you are adding manure or other non-desirable items to your pile, place them on top of the bread chunks.
That way, they will still break down but you are masking any smell and making it less of a lure for critters.
Step 4: Replace Compost
Now it’s time to replace the compost over the small hole you dug for the bread. This will ensure that it is well and truly buried. Turn or aerate as required, and you’re done.
And that is all there is to it. It will take you longer to read the steps above than actually implement them if you already have a process for feeding your compost pile, and it is all that is needed to add bread with no fuss and no trouble.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.