Composting Bread: Benefits and Considerations

Bread, once a kitchen staple, often ends up in the trash or as food for birds. But did you know that bread scraps can also be composted? While composting bread does come with some considerations, the benefits make it worthy for your compost pile.

Bread scraps break down relatively quickly during composting. The decomposing bread helps provide food for the bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that are the driving forces behind the composting process.

However, bread composting also has some potential downsides. The main concerns are that bread may not provide significant nutritional value and that it can attract pests like rodents or birds. But there are ways to compost bread while avoiding or minimizing these issues.

The Pros of Composting Bread

1. It Keeps Bread Out of Landfills

Tossing stale loaves and crusts in the garbage wastes food that could otherwise be composted. Americans throw away up to 40% of their food – often more during the holidays. Composting bread scraps is an easy way to divert some of your food waste from landfills.

2. Bread Counts as a “Green” Compost Additive

Green compost additives, like bread, grass clippings, and fruit scraps, are high in nitrogen. This nitrogen is needed to balance out “brown” compost materials that are high in carbon such as dry leaves, branches, and sawdust. The right mix of greens and browns provides ideal conditions for compost organisms to thrive.

3. Bread Breaks Down Quickly

A slice of bread in your compost pile will decompose faster than harder, drier materials. The bread’s soft texture gives compost microbes easy access to break it down. Your compost will be ready sooner when you include moderate amounts of bread.

4. It Provides Food for Compost Organisms

The microorganisms in compost need nitrogen-rich foods like bread to consume. This nourishment allows them to increase in number and speed up decomposition. So bread scraps can boost your compost’s biodiversity.

5. Moldy Bread Is Great for Compost

That last crusty heel from your bread loaf covered in blue fuzz? It’s ideal for compost! The mold provides additional fungi to aid decomposition. And the moisture in moldy bread gives compost organisms the water they need to thrive.

Potential Drawbacks of Composting Bread

1. Bread May Attract Pests

Rodents like rats and mice or birds like crows may be drawn to the smell of bread in your open compost pile. Following proper composting methods can prevent this. Burying bread under 10 inches of compost is ideal. Using a rodent-proof composter also helps avoid pests.

2. It May Lack Significant Nutrients

While bread scraps provide compost organisms with energy from the carbohydrates and proteins in the bread, the nutritional benefit for your garden is relatively small. Nutrient-rich veggie scraps and egg shells offer more value.

3. Salt and Fat Can Harm Compost

Bread or baked goods with high salt and fat content aren’t recommended for compost piles. Excess salt can damage beneficial microorganisms. High-fat foods like donuts can leave oily residues and interfere with the composting process. Stick to low-fat, low-salt breads.

Best Practices for Composting Bread

Break It Up

Tear bread and baked goods into smaller pieces before adding them to your compost. This increases the surface area for compost organisms to work on breaking it all down.

Bury It Deep

Bury bread scraps under 10-12 inches of compost or leaves to discourage pests. This also protects the bread from drying out. Turning the pile periodically keeps things decomposing aerobically.

Balance It Out

To avoid compacting your compost, don’t overload it with bread. Mix in equal or greater amounts of bulkier brown materials like leaves, straw, or wood chips regularly.

Use a Sealed Composter

For rodent-proof composting, add bread to a sealed composter or tumbler. This prevents pests while still allowing air circulation for decomposition. Just remember to turn the tumbler or mix the compost weekly.

Consider Sourdough or Corn Bread

Sourdough and corn bread contain natural antimicrobials that can help them break down efficiently without odor issues. The natural yeast in sourdough bread can also aid decomposition.

Strategies for Composting Bread Without Attracting Pests

Composting bread and other food scraps keeps them out of landfills while creating nutritious food for your garden. However, compost piles with food in them can attract unwanted pests like rodents, raccoons, and flies. Thankfully, there are effective strategies to compost bread waste without attracting these pesky creatures.

Preventing Rodents

Rats and mice are clever when it comes to sniffing out food waste. To deter them:

  • Use a rodent-resistant composter or tumbler with a locking lid. This seals off the compost from rodents trying to get in.
  • Bury the bread under at least 10-12 inches of compost or soil. This masks the scent and makes it hard for rodents to dig down and reach the bread.
  • Intersperse bread with coarse materials like wood chips, straw, or pine needles to make it harder for rodents to get to the scraps.
  • Add bread in moderation along with plenty of brown materials like leaves or cardboard to balance the nitrogen. Too much bread can be a red flag for rodents.
  • Turn and mix up the contents of open compost piles frequently to disrupt potential nesting spots for mice.

Keeping Out Raccoons

Raccoons are adept at overturning compost piles to scavenge for food inside. Tactics to keep them away include:

  • Place compost bins on a hard surface rather than bare soil. This prevents raccoons from digging underneath.
  • Use compost tumblers or bins with latches rather than open piles. Raccoons can’t get through locked lids.
  • Install motion sensor lights around compost piles. The sudden bright lights will startle and scare off nighttime raccoon intruders.
  • Sprinkle blood meal fertilizer around compost piles. The strong scent repels raccoons.
  • Make sure compost bins are sturdy and not easily tipped over by clever raccoons trying to get inside.

Deterring Flies

Fruit flies and other flying insects thrive on fermenting bread. To avoid infestations:

  • Bury bread scraps well inside compost piles, at least 10-12 inches deep. This keeps flies from laying eggs in it.
  • Cover new food scraps like bread with a dry brown layer such as leaves, sawdust, or straw. This creates a barrier flies can’t get through.
  • Turn and mix compost regularly to disturb fly larvae before they can mature. This aerates the compost too.
  • Add neem meal or neem oil to repel adult flies. The natural neem odor masks the scent of food scraps.

By taking a few key precautions, you can compost bread waste in your backyard without attracting pests or creating problems with odors. Pay attention to your compost system and make adjustments as needed to maintain healthy decomposition without nuisance critters getting involved. Then you can reap the rewards of nourishing your garden with quality compost.