Composting rice is tricky since it can both attract unwanted pests and clump together, causing harmful bacteria and noxious odors. But just because something is tricky doesn’t mean it can’t be done. If you have the capabilities, composting rice can be a great way to build organic matter for your garden.
Is It Okay to Compost Rice?
It is okay to compost rice because rice is an organic material that will eventually break down into the soil. However, the decay process could be interrupted by pests or unwanted bacteria. If the rice gets removed from the compost before it has broken down, it can cause a mess and invite wild animals into your yard.
However, throwing away either uneaten cooked rice or otherwise unwanted raw rice is food waste, and the food scraps could be put to better use. It is okay to compost rice as long as the rice is composted in the right way. The average person will need to discard rice at some point in their life, but how exactly to compost it depends on the kind of rice being tossed out.
Types of Rice
There are a few different types of rice that can be thrown into the compost heap. Some rice will take longer to break down due to more green material and hulls still being attached. Other types of rice might hold more moisture and harmful bacteria that could spoil a compost pile.
|Type of Rice||Compostability||Potential Risk|
|Whole Grain Rice||Compostable||Backyard Rodents stealing grains|
|Cooked Rice||Somewhat Compostable||Harmful bacteria, Rice clumps|
|Raw White Rice||Somewhat Compostable||Slow Composting Process, Breeding ground|
Whole Grain Rice
Whether cooked or uncooked, rice with hulls and the whole grains attached is more desired by pests. If uncooked rice is thrown into the compost pile, it will take a long time to break down. If the rice grains as not buried deeply enough or become exposed at all during the winter, then pests will eat them. Place uncooked rice with whole grains in a rodent-proof bin until ready to compost or use to avoid attracting pests.
Cooked whole-grain rice can get really sticky if it is thrown in the compost with a lot of moisture. The sugars and anaerobic conditions caused by brown rice can lead to bad bacteria and a stinky decomposition process. Leftover food should be added to the compost bin with brown materials like paper towels.
Stale leftover rice can be added to the compost with both kitchen waste and organic waste from the yard. Make sure to break up the clumps of rice and let them dry out to help your backyard compost.
Cooked rice will make it to finished compost quickly since it has already been processed by heat. The problem with cooked rice is that it is a breeding ground for bad bacteria that uncooked rice does not harbor. It is important to heat cooked rice up in a hot compost pile. If you are not hot composting, you can add coffee grounds and other bacteria inhibiting kitchen scraps.
Cooked compost can be added with brown composting ingredients like paper bags or nitrogen-rich materials from the vegetable garden. Cooked plain rice doesn’t add much to the compost nutritionally, but it does add mass and sugars for the soil microorganisms.
Raw White Rice
White rice has been bleached and is designed to be stored long-term without accumulating harmful types of bacteria. It can take a lot of work to make rice compostable in traditional compost. A hot pile can speed things up, but it will take excellent compost materials and no anaerobic conditions to produce a healthy compost pile.
If you are cold composting, it will be even more difficult to break down raw rice. Soaking the rice for a couple of days can help it soften grains. The potential drawback is adding too much moisture to the compostable materials already in the compost pile. Nothing in the rice makes a good natural fertilizer, although it can be added to potting soil to retain moisture without introducing plant disease.
What To Compost With Rice
Regardless of the type of rice, there are some things that are good to compost with rice to speed up making rich compost. Adding a few or all of these materials to the compost list can help make your compost pile suitable for composting rice.
- Fruit and Vegetable Scraps – Kitchen scraps that aren’t too wet, like carrot peels and cabbage leaves, can be added to rice. Mixing them together will help prevent clumping and increase the oxygen the microbes need to break down the rice fast.
Since rice doesn’t have any nitrogen adding green kitchen materials will build the nutrient content of your finished compost. The carbon in the rice can help balance the nitrogen in your other kitchen waste as well, creating a better product for your garden.
- Lawn and Grass Trimmings – If you throw rice into the compost pile, you can use lawn and grass trimmings to help incorporate it into the pile. The grass and rice will break down together and make a better environment for good bacteria.
If pests are a nuisance for you, then burying your food items like rice underneath layers of lawn waste can keep it hidden. Most pests are looking for an easy meal, and the smell of freshly cut grass can mask the smell of rice temporarily, making it harder for rodents to snag.
- Leaves and Brown Yard Materials – Rice doesn’t do much to offset the high level of nitrogen from lawn and kitchen waste. You will need plenty of brown material, especially if you want a hot compost pile. Adding brown leaves, paper, egg cartons, and cardboard to your compost with rice can help it break down faster.
- Brown Paper Bags and Cardboard – Cooked rice can often have a lot of leftover moisture. When tossing it in the compost with other wet ingredients, you could produce compost that stinks. Adding brown paper bags and cardboard to dry up excess moisture and balance the carbon ratio can help with compost issues.
- Pet food – Sometimes kibble and other pet food is off or expired. Most of the nutrients animals need, plants need too, and it can break down quickly in a hot compost. The dry nature of kibble helps to absorb some of the moisture from cooked rice and leads to both breaking down more efficiently.
What Not to Compost With Rice
Adding certain things to compost that already has rice can worsen compost issues. Make sure to add only the recommended ingredients with rice, or else you may end up with some of the problems below.
- Pasta, Bread, or Other Starchy Foods – Rice has a lot of starch and sugars that can build up in the soil. Small amounts of these sugars can speed microbe growth and actually help with overall compost health. Adding too much can have the opposite effect.
Pasta and bread have the same or similar starches as rice and will break down in compost. This may lead to explosions in insect and pest growth and pockets of bad bacteria. Molds and other fungi that could harm plants will grow better on starchy compost as well.
- Wet Kitchen Scraps – Cooked rice is often wet, and adding more wet kitchen waste on top will lead to a build-up of anaerobic activity. This will produce terrible odors and make your compost a target for unwanted pests. Keep the moisture levels down by allowing the rice to dry out before composting or adding more brown materials to the compost bin.
- Meat, Sauces, or Oil – The smell of rancid meat and oil will attract predators and larger pests. These food scraps also have a negative effect on worms and other soil microbes. They slow down reproduction until the pH and soil structure return to normal. Rice with meat, sauces, and oil mixed in shouldn’t be composted but could possibly be added to a warm bin in moderation.