The world owes tremendous gratitude to Italy and its most significant inventions. They include innovations in the fields of writing, civil engineering, modern medicine, theorizing civil law, mathematical algebra and, of course, industrial pasta production. Pasta is that one staple food that can be cooked with a lot of ease through boiling or baking and can be enjoyed at any time and by anyone.
Sometimes, you might have some leftover pasta and wonder what to do with it. The majority of the people tend to throw away the leftover pasta in the trash. However, could there be a second option? Could composting pasta be an alternative, and is it safe? This article will look into composting pasta.
Can You Put Pasta in Compost?
Absolutely! It would be best if you composted your leftover pasta and not throw it away into the garbage bin. Whether cooked or uncooked, pasta is generally safe to compost, although there are some underlying issues behind such a decision.
Composting food scraps help us recycle vegetable trimmings and coffee grounds and enables us to create food for our soil. It is important to note that almost three million tons of food waste get composted each year, and pasta should be part of this figure. The rule of thumb by most composters is that if you can eat it, you can compost it. This means pasta is safe to compost.
Composting pasta ensures it does not end up in landfills, yet it can be helpful elsewhere, precisely in the compost pile. Additionally, it can help balance moisture levels in your bin.
Most nitrogen-rich materials are very wet, and adding too many of them can lead to too much moisture in your bin. Pasta is a nitrogen-rich material, but at the same time, it is pretty dry. Therefore, it will add nitrogen to your bin while also helping to offset the wetness of other green materials.
The downside to composting pasta is that being a food waste, it will definitely attract rodents, flies and maggots. However, this concern only applies to cooked pasta, so if you are wondering about uncooked pasta, go ahead and add it to your compost pile.
The problem with pests and rodents in your compost is that they will feast on your food scraps, and your compost will get zero benefits from your waste. They can also litter your compound, not to forget that they might bring rabies to your compound. Also, the flies and maggots brought in by the cooked pasta will result in compost that might be harmful to the plants.
The rodents and vermin will also produce the wrong types of bacteria that will harm the plants instead of helping them. Be careful to close the compost bin well so that they do not enter, or alternatively, use a compost tumbler. Also, bury your pasta and other starches deep in the heap and cover them with carbon-rich materials to avoid attracting pests and rodents in the first place.
Finally, be careful when composting pasta, whether cooked or uncooked, together with other food items like meat, cheese and vegetables. While most edible items are generally compostable, you need to take special care with meat and dairy.
If not handled properly, adding meat and dairy to your compost can lead to a bad smell, which will definitely attract all sorts of pests. It will also cause poor aeration and lead to an overgrowth of the wrong kind of bacteria. When composting pasta, try to remove as much of the meat and dairy components as possible, to reduce your chances of dealing with these issues.
Can You Compost Pasta Sauce?
Oh yes! You can compost pasta sauce. Again, the rule of thumb is if you can eat it, you can compost it. This means pasta sauce is safe to compost. However, this is only applicable to some sauces and with others, caution is advised.
First, pasta sauces can cover a wide variety of different ingredients, with the most popular being tomato. Tomatoes are known to be slightly acidic, so composting lots of them can be bad for your compost. But by ‘lots’, we are talking bucket loads of sauce.
Unless you have a tomato sauce business, you’re unlikely to have too much, so go ahead and chuck it in your pile! Alternatively, add some wood ash or a slightly alkaline agent that will counter the acidity.
Secondly, if you prefer the creamy pasta sauce, take caution as well. The creamy sauce is made using dairy products, and some people avoid composting dairy products because they can attract pests.
However, if it is just a tiny amount of leftover pasta sauce, there shouldn’t be a problem. On the other hand, if you have a whole jar, then I would advise being cautious and making sure it’s well mixed into the middle of your pile.
Thirdly, if you use oily sauces like pesto, take caution as well. Oils have a complex chemical structure and take a long time to break down in compost, so adding a lot of oily sauce is a bad idea.
Oils will also displace water in your compost and reduce airflow. This will therefore slow down the entire process. Minimal amounts on some leftover pasta will be okay, but avoid adding oily sauces too often, especially if you have a small pile.
Generally and regardless of the sauce ingredients, if you are disposing of a whole jar of any sauce, dilute it. By diluting the sauce with some water before it is added to the compost bin, it will reduce how much it smells and, therefore, not attract pests. You can also add some brown material, such as shredded paper in at the same time to help soak up the excess moisture.
Can You Compost Uncooked Pasta?
Yes, you can and should compost uncooked pasta. In fact, uncooked pasta is the best type of pasta to compost. It is less attractive to animals than cooked pasta and will break down quickly once exposed to a bit of moisture.
Also, composting it requires less caution than when composting cooked pasta. You should therefore go ahead and compost uncooked pasta without too much concern.
The pasta will start to break down once it is a bit wet. You can also take some caution, you know, to be on the safer side. Do this by using a lidded container or hiding the pasta in the middle of the heap to prevent animals from nibbling on the pasta.
Also, be sure to break the larger pasta noodles into smaller pieces, as this can also help expedite the decomposing process. You can also spread your pasta scraps in an even layer and cover them with wood shavings or leaves.
Can You Compost Macaroni and Cheese?
Can you compost mac and cheese? Yes! Should you? That depends
Macaroni and cheese are dairy products and remember…if you can eat it, you can compost it. However, composting dairy products has its drawbacks, and the same applies here. In fact, traditional composters advise against composting dairy products due to their high moisture and fat contents.
Composting them, therefore, attract pests, and if you have to do it, you have to adhere to specific rules.
First, dairy products have a low material structure, meaning they are soft and do not have much roughage or texture. As such, mix the mac and cheese with dry fibrous materials when adding them to the compost. Add dry leaves, straw, or even shredded paper, to help compensate for the wetness and lack of texture of the dairy products. It also improves the structure and encourages air pockets to help keep the compost aerated.
Secondly, make sure the bin is far away from the water supply as there might be leachate contamination. The leachate is the liquid produced during the decomposition process, and food wastes produce this leachate.
Thirdly, break up your dairy produce into smaller pieces to help hasten the decomposition process and potentially avoid anaerobic conditions. They arise because dairy products like mac and cheese will produce odors when composted and occur when large clumps of food stick together, encouraging an anaerobic decomposition.
Fourthly, use gloves. When composting animal food scraps, the organic waste will carry parasites and bacteria, with dairy and meat products at a higher risk of pathogens. This is also the reason why you should always wash your garden vegetables before eating them.
Potential Issues With Composting Pasta
1. A pest problem
This is the primary reason why most people avoid composting food scraps, like pasta. Composting pasta, especially the already cooked one, can attract pests, including rodents like rats, mice and raccoons.
As pasta breaks down, it smells very inviting to birds, rodents, and other small animals. These animals can be incredibly persistent and will do everything they can to break into your compost bin if they can smell food. This could include taking the entire composting bin or tumbler down, which could lead to litter being spread all over your compound.
However, if you make sure not to add too much pasta or bury it with other compostable material inside the composting bin, then you can easily compost pasta without having to worry about pests.
2. Adding big pieces
As already advised, you should cut your more significant pieces of pasta into smaller pieces. The problem associated with throwing the larger parts inside the composting bin is that they can quickly become anaerobic and stink.
This instantly becomes an environmental nightmare to you, your family and neighbors, and could also invite pests that will cause additional harm. To avoid all these, chop the pasta into smaller pieces before adding it to your compost bin.
3. Adding too much pasta
Granted, you are trying to compost all your food waste and avoid having them end up in landfills. However, it would be best if you made sure pasta is not the dominant material in your bin. Again, this will invite the pests into the bin, and all will be for nothing.
Healthy compost should have a variety of elements and, as such, mix the pasta with other kitchen waste such as vegetable scraps and a lot of brown materials like shredded leaves or paper.
4. Composting it in anything other than a covered bin or tumbler
Pasta has been identified to be compostable, but the safest way to do it is by composting it in a covered bin or a compost tumbler. Again, the primary threat is the pests that will do anything to get to the pasta and other food wastes.
Imagine a racoon wrestling with your compost bin to the ground and having it open once it goes down. Imagine all that mess. They will litter the compound and have their way with the food wastes. Discourage them by using an enclosed or raised bin as this adds an extra layer of protection and also insulates your compost.