Can You Compost Pasta, Potatoes, And Other Starches?

Collage of uncooked pasta, paper towels and potato peelings with compost bin in the backgroundThese days we try to reuse and recycle just about everything we can. When it comes to repurposing the scraps from your kitchen, composting is the "green" way to go. Almost three million tons of food waste gets composted each year. But not everything should get tossed into the compost pile or bucket. We were curious about what’s on the “don’t” compost list. For instance, can you compost pasta, potatoes, and other starches?

Pasta, potatoes and other starches can be added to your compost pile. Pasta and other starches should be buried deep in the heap to keep from attracting pests or rodents.

Not only does composting help us recycle vegetable trimmings and coffee grounds, it enables us to create food for our soil. Read our post about how to amend clay soil for vegetable gardening to learn more about the importance of soil.

A rule of thumb that some composters follow is that if you can eat it, you can compost it. That’s true to a certain extent. Some food items are easier to deal with than others. Keep reading this post as we explain the ins and outs of adding starchy foods into your compost bin.

Adding Starches In Compost

A healthy compost needs equal amounts of carbon-rich dry brown materials and nitrogen-rich green plant materials. Carbon-rich materials include your yard trimmings, grass clippings, and paper sources. Nitrogen-rich materials include kitchen leftovers including pasta, potatoes, and other starchy foods.

All starchy foods cooked or uncooked can be added to your compost. There are a few tips that we recommend you follow for the best results.

We recommend that you:

  • Add foods like pasta and rice to a well-established compost
  • Bury the starches deep and into the middle of your pile
  • Use a covered bin or compost tumbler
  • Don’t compost whole potatoes
  • Don't compost diseased potatoes or their peels
  • Skip composting foods that are covered in oily or cheesy sauces
  • Cover the starches with carbon-rich brown materials
  • Aerate the pile often by turning it over manually or using a tumbler
  • Make sure your compost is moist but not too wet
  • Break apart clumped food like rice or oatmeal
  • Cut or tear large pieces of pasta or bread into small pieces

Can You Compost Uncooked Pasta?

Uncooked pasta

Your uncooked pasta can and should be composted. The pasta will start to break down once it’s a bit wet. To prevent animals from nibbling on the pasta, use a lidded container or hide it in the middle of the heap.

Breaking larger noodles like lasagna or spaghetti into smaller pieces will also help expedite the decomposing process. Spread your pasta scraps in an even layer and cover with wood shavings or leaves.

Can You Put Bread In Compost?

Yes, you can compost bread. You can put fresh, stale or toasted bread in the pile. Bread is soft and once wet, it will break down quickly. Tearing your bread into pieces and covering it with dampened paper or grass clippings will also help the process.

The only reason not to compost bread is to avoid unwanted pests. Using a covered bin or covering the bread with other items like leaves or wood shavings can keep those pesky pests away.

Can Cooked Rice Go In Compost?

Cooked rice is a tricky ingredient for your compost. The rice can go into your compost. But, make sure your compost pile is well established and dig a deep hole to bury the rice. Also, rice tends to stick together in a clump, so break it into smaller chunks.

If you have a newer compost pile, cooked rice will attract critters like rats. And cooked rice can potentially harbor bacteria. It might not be worth the hassle for your compost. If you have a bin that is closed, it’s fine to add the rice.

Can I Put Potato Peelings In My Compost Bin?

Potato peelings

Potatoes peels can absolutely be put in your compost bin. But, before you add the peels to the pile, check them for a fungus call potato blight. The blight spores can live on the peels and potentially wreck your compost.

It’s best to avoid putting any material that has a fungus or disease into your bin or pile. If you’re unsure about the peelings and your compost is mature, bury them deep.

Can You Put Moldy Food In Compost?

Feel free to get rid of the moldy food and add it to your compost bin. Moldy food has a head start on decomposing.

Add your items to the center of the compost and cover well with brown material like trimmings from your yard or newspapers.

Most foods that have gone bad can be added to your compost. Foods that you shouldn’t compost whether they are moldy or not include cheese and meat.

Are Paper Towels Compostable?

Potato peelings

Paper towels are compostable and make for good brown material. However, there are some rules to follow when adding these paper products to the heap.

Grease And Oil

If you used paper towels to clean up grease or oil or butter, don’t put those in the compost. These types of foods tend to prevent airflow which can lead to a stinky mess.

Cleaning Products

Paper towels that were used with your commercial cleaning products shouldn’t make it to your bin. These cleaners can upset the balance of good bacteria at work.

Dirt And Food

Paper towels that were used to clean up non-greasy food or dirt are fine to put in the compost. The carbon-rich material will degrade quickly in your compost.

Keep Pests Out Of Your Compost

Any type of food trimming can attract rodents or other pests to an open compost bin. And where you live and the conditions of your yard or wherever keep your compost pile can contribute to animals finding their way to a feast. The best way to maintain a pest-free heap is to invest in a closed compost tumbler. Check out our post about how long it takes to compost in a tumbler to learn how to create a quick and healthy compost that keeps wildlife at bay.

Don’t Throw It Out, Compost It

In this post, you’ve learned that you can and should compost the starchy foods scraps from your kitchen. We hope that these tips for keeping your compost safe are helpful.

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