Can you compost rice

Can You Compost Rice for Sustainable Leftovers?

Rice is a staple in many homes, so it’s no surprise that the question, “can you compost rice?” may pop into people’s minds. Since it’s one of the most popular grains worldwide, cooked and uncooked rice waste is prevalent in many homes. Studies show that in 2020/2021, we consumed 504 million metric tons of rice globally1.

In many parts of the world, composting is an ideal way to get rid of organic matter. Creating a compost heap provides nutrients to the soil and plants. Even with the knowledge of composting, sometimes it can be tricky to identify what and what not to add to a compost bin. If you’re unsure what to do with leftovers of cooked or uncooked rice, this article will guide you. 

Related: To further your compost knowledge, check out our big guide to what you can and can’t compost.  

Is Rice Compostable?

compost heap
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

A simple search of “can you compost rice?” will direct you to several pages with different answers to this question. Although rice is an organic material, the process of composting rice is not as straightforward as many other materials. 

However, to answer the question of “can you compost rice?” Yes, you can. Rice will break down in a compost heap and add nutrients to the soil. The process of composting leftover rice is, however, a bit tricky. 

There are many factors you need to put in place before adding cooked rice or uncooked rice to your compost bin. One of such factors is the type of compost set-up, and another is your composting knowledge level. It’s important to be cautious about what you add to your finished compost. Certain materials can attract rodents and add harmful bacteria to your compost piles. Without caution, adding cooked or uncooked rice to your compost bin can cause such effects. 

When it comes to building a traditional compost bin, you need to follow specific rules to prevent unwanted pests. Also, the last thing you want is for your compost pile to become a breeding ground for undesirable bacteria. Furthermore, if you have garden or backyard compost, harmful bacteria can leach into the foods you’re growing. All of these will only cause more harm to your compost pile. 

As a rule of thumb, avoid adding certain types of cooked rice to your compost pile. For instance, fried rice often contains ingredients like meat and oils that can attract unwanted visitors. Such ingredients can also prevent the healthy growth of your compost. On the other hand, white rice is plain and can make good organic matter to your compost pile. Whether you’re just starting or curious about adding rice to your compost bin, you’ll find answers here. First, let’s examine why composting rice can be tricky. 

Why Adding Rice to Your Compost Pile Is A Tricky One

Although composting cooked rice and uncooked rice is possible, it requires certain best practices. If you eat rice a lot and want to add this green material to your compost, you should consider certain factors. 

Before adding rice to your compost pile, consider whether it’s cooked rice or uncooked rice. The reason for this consideration is that raw rice and cooked rice require slightly different practices. As a result, knowing how to add each type to your compost pile will ensure it doesn’t attract rodents. Although you can add rice to your compost pile, you should avoid adding large quantities to your compost. 

Let’s examine the challenges of composting cooked and uncooked rice. Understanding the potential drawbacks will help you approach composting intentionally if you wish to add rice to your compost pile. 

Can You Compost Cooked Rice?

Bowl plain white rice - can you compost it?
Photo by Chanhee Lee on Unsplash

The simple answer is that you can add cooked rice to your compost pile. Your leftover rice is a suitable item that you can add to your compost. Similar to other kitchen waste, rice will add nutrients to the soil once combined with other kitchen scraps. In many homes, especially large families, food scraps are a challenge. This includes stale leftover rice. As a result, people consider what to do with scraps and leftovers. Through composting in the garden, for instance, you can convert such waste to useful material. 

When you add cooked rice to a compost pile, it’ll most likely decompose quickly. However, you need to either be an experienced composter or someone with adequate knowledge to tackle this properly. 

Although you can compost rice, you need to consider some challenges you might encounter. Cooked rice tends to clump together. If you add this in large amounts to your compost bin, the heaviness and stickiness affect oxygen flow. Naturally, oxygen is an essential aspect of composting as it supports healthy compost. In cases where people add large amounts of rice to their compost, it can prevent airflow and cause anaerobic conditions. Also, this creates foul odors. 

Although some bacteria support the composting process, harmful bacteria cause more harm than good. If you don’t take caution, cooked rice can also introduce bad bacteria to your compost if you don't take caution. Later in this article, you’ll discover how to compost rice to prevent harmful bacteria and unwelcome visitors like pests.

Can You Compost Uncooked Rice?

Apart from cooked rice, you might have leftovers of uncooked rice. If you’ve asked yourself: “can uncooked rice be composted?” the answer is yes. You can compost rice in its uncooked form. 

Although composting uncooked rice doesn’t pose the possible problem of bad bacteria, it still has its challenges. One of these challenges is that uncooked rice can attract pests and rodents. So, if you’re into garden composting, rodents and insects can pose a threat to your compost material. These pests can dig up your compost and hinder its healthy growth. Not only this, but pests can also destroy your plants. To avoid attracting pests, you can apply certain practices and tips to ensure a healthy pile. 

Best Conditions to Compost Rice

Whether you’re composting cooked rice or uncooked rice, you should follow certain best practices. As mentioned earlier, you can compost rice; however, it can be tricky. The truth is that not everyone has suitable conditions for rice composting. Before throwing your leftover food in your compost pile, consider if you have these conditions in place. You should also pay attention to these factors if you have garden compost. 

Choose a Hot Compost Pile

A hot compost provides the environment to break down organic waste and food scraps quickly. Naturally, hot compost will break down materials faster than traditional cold compost. By adding rice to a hot compost pile, you can prevent some of the possible problems. For instance, the hot temperature can kill any unhelpful bacteria that might be building up. Also, adding rice to a hot pile can drive away any unwanted vermin. With temperatures of up to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, hot composting is ideal for rice. 

Place Rice in a Worm Bin

Another way to safely add food or rice waste to your pile is by choosing a worm bin. If wondering what do worms eat? Well, worms love rice and will easily eat it. As they feed on the food, they help prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria that can affect your pile. 

Generally, stick with plain rice and avoid spices and meat that can affect the quality of your heap. If your rice has sauce on it, make sure to rinse it out before adding it to the pile. Sauces can release pungent odors, and worms may not be able to digest spicy foods. Add your rice in tiny amounts to avoid excess uneaten food. You can then add more rice over several days. 

Use a Covered Bin

Open garden composts often attract pests. This is detrimental to the success of your heap as pests destroy it in search of food. To avoid this, you can add rice in a closed compost bin to prevent attacks from pests. 

A closed rodent-proof bin is an excellent alternative if you can’t create a hot compost or access a worm bin. As the name suggests, this product will keep rodents out while keeping any odor in. The best option is for you to get an elevated enclosed bin. This keeps it off the ground and away from the walls. This way, you’re sure that the pests will stay away. 

Send Scraps to Municipal Compost Systems

In the event that you have none of these systems in place, you can send your waste to your city’s compost program. First, you have to find out if your city or town has a system in place for composts. If it does, then you can begin to include your rice in the bins the city provides for composts. Advanced systems allow the city’s facilities to have the necessary conditions to break down organic materials properly. 

Tips to Compost Rice

Below are some additional tips to ensure you start composting rice successfully.

  • Spread the grains: One thing you should keep in mind is that rice clumps can affect the flow of air and oxygen. When you spread your grains throughout the heaps or piles, you give room for proper decomposition. This also helps to prevent unwanted bacteria from forming. Apart from preventing bacteria, when you distribute the grains makes it more difficult for pests to locate the rice. 
  • Turn the compost often: Another important tip is to turn your compost frequently. Regular turning prevents clumps from forming. As a result, it aids the circulation, which speeds up decomposition. Regular turning also infuses oxygen and spreads moisture.
  • Add hydrated white lime: This substance is a white powder that comes from treating calcium oxide with water. Adding hydrated white lime to your composts provides several benefits. It neutralizes acids and speeds up the process in which the rice decomposes. As a bonus, it also repels pests from your composts. 

Conclusion

If you wondered how to safely and properly compost rice, now you know how to approach it. Rice is a grain that people widely consume all around the globe. As a result, this leads to significant amounts of waste and leftovers. By properly composting your leftovers, you enrich the soil while diverting materials from landfills.

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1

Shahbandeh, M. (2021, April 22). Total Rice Consumption Worldwide from 2008/2009 to 2020/2021. Statista

Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.

Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Photo by M.Fildza Fadzil on Unsplash
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