Donuts are a beloved treat around the world. Their sweet taste and soft, doughy texture make them an irresistible snack or dessert. But what should you do with leftover donuts that may go stale? Can you compost donuts instead of sending them to the landfill?
In short - no, donuts should not go in a home or municipal compost bin. The high sugar and fat content of donuts can attract pests, cause odors, and slow down the composting process. Compost facility operators also recommend keeping donuts and other sugary baked goods out of municipal compost bins.
While composting donuts is not impossible, it requires careful management not practical for most home composters. This article covers everything you need to know about the challenges of composting donuts and whether special approaches could allow it.
Composting works by providing microorganisms the proper balance of carbon-rich "browns" and nitrogen-rich "greens." Materials high in oils, fats, or sugars can disrupt this balance in a few key ways:
Attracting Pests: Sugary baked goods left outdoors are magnets for pests like rats, raccoons, flies, and yellow jackets. Getting into a compost bin gives them shelter and abundant food to thrive.
Causing Odors: Excess sugars and fats going rancid in a compost pile create unpleasant smells. This happens when microbial activity slows and anaerobic bacteria take over, producing smelly compounds.
Slowing Decomposition: The microbes that drive composting need more nitrogen-rich materials to break down high-carbon donuts. Without enough nitrogen, donuts could take months or years to break down.
These issues are why municipal compost facilities ask residents to keep donuts, cookies, and cakes out of city compost bins. Home composters face the same challenges trying to compost sugary baked goods.
While composting straight donuts causes issues, a few specialty approaches could work:
Burying a few donuts deep in a very large, hot compost pile can break them down without causing odor or pest problems. The key is ensuring the pile maintains aerobic conditions. This takes high temperatures, adequate moisture, and regular turning.
For home composters, that usually means a pile of at least one cubic yard maintained carefully. Such a large, meticulously managed pile is not realistic for most homeowners.
Another option is mixing a small amount of donuts with a large amount of high-carbon "browns." Good browns include dry leaves, wood chips, sawdust, or shredded paper.
The browns provide more surface area for microbes to break down the donuts. Turning the pile frequently keeps conditions aerobic.
While possible, this approach takes effort not practical for composting more than a few donuts. It also risks attracting pests if you do not bury the donuts well.
No - both the doughy interior and outer fried coating of donuts contain sugars, starches, and fats unideal for composting.
The core issues around composting donuts come from their high sugar and oil content. So vegan and gluten-free donuts face the same challenges.
No. Sugary glazes or cream fillings should go in the trash, not your compost bin. Some glazes also contain shortening or oils.
Worm composting bins can break down small amounts of sugars and fats. But excess will overwhelm worms and breed molds or odors. We recommend avoiding donuts in worm bins.
We hope this guide gave you a comprehensive understanding of the challenges around composting donuts. While special approaches could potentially work, donuts generally do not belong in home or municipal compost bins. For those with a donut craving, enjoy your treats and dispose of any leftovers in the trash. Composting vegetable peels, coffee grounds, and yard waste remain great ways to keep food scraps out of landfills.