The Compost Guy behind Hot Composting Week

The kids in the Johannes household have a ripping time on Saturday mornings – that’s when they join their dad tearing up cardboard for the family’s compost bins.

Their dad Adam Johannes is best known to his customers and Instagram followers as Compost Guy.

Adam had long been a keen gardener and composter when he realised a few years ago that he could help other people by offering advice to newbies starting out on their own composting journey, as well as selling products that he believed in, including the Green Johanna.  People message him with their questions and he aims to respond to 99 per cent of queries on the same day.

Adam – a regular Compost Guy

He finds that most people who contact him have already convinced themselves to start composting but just need a bit of advice.

‘They argue themselves into it, they know they want to send less to landfill, be more sustainable, and get compost,’ he says. ‘If someone is not completely sold on it, I normally list out the practical benefits, then the issues with not doing it!’

In a bid to spread the word, he decided to start an annual Hot Composting Week – the first one begins on Monday (September 18 – 24). He got the idea because he realised there were other weeks dedicated to general composting, but nothing focused on hot composting ‘- and that is the best way!’

He uses hot composters himself – a Green Johanna and Hotbin – and has also used Aerobin, wormeries and Bokashi bins in the past.

 ‘I thought it would be good to highlight the benefits to more people. Everyone is surprised when I tell them how hot it gets! The aim of the week is to show people that hot composting is a good investment for them, and the planet.’

 Concern for the environment

Compost Guy started life in the winter of 2019, a few months before the pandemic hit. Adam found that customers were initially motivated by concern for the environment; then when garden waste collections stopped during lockdown, there was an additional reason for people to get into composting – to get rid of the garden waste they were stuck with.

He stresses that his small team are not scientists or professional gardeners, just enthusiasts who believe in the value of what they’re doing and know there are people out there who would benefit too. Composting started as a natural extension to gardening for Adam but quickly became a hobby. As an allotmenteer he originally wanted to find out how to enrich his soil for best results.

‘Composting is a great hobby for anyone,’ he says. ‘Sad as it sounds, I love getting out there and aerating my compost. I like the hands-on nature of it. Perhaps I love composting far too much!’

Compost Guy’s enthusiasm seems to give people the confidence to reach out and ask him all sorts of questions.  He loves trying to help and points out that everybody’s compost bin will be different, depending on various factors, such as the bin’s contents, position, local climate etc.

The main questions he gets asked are about how to speed up composting and the differences between the various hot composters.

Carbon content

When he first started on Instagram he only expected a few followers but to his astonishment quickly got far more – to date he has an impressive 6,700.
He sorted out a potential problem for his own in-laws recently when they were just starting out with their Green Johanna. On inspecting their Johanna, Adam saw that food waste had not been mixed with much garden waste and was sitting on a large amount of grass clippings which had matted together. So he set about ripping up cardboard boxes, with his children of course, and added this to the bin along with shredded waste paper. They tore up more carbon-content waste than they needed and put the excess in a handy lidded container to store it for when needed later.

 A video on the website shows Adam enthusiastically aerating the Johanna’s contents to bring back ideal conditions in the bin. He also used a garden fork to aerate deeper in the bin to break up the matted grass and added bark chips, which provide valuable air pockets.

Adam is keen that Compost Guy should be a force for good in the world. A good portion of the profits go to sponsoring three children in poverty and each new customer means trees get planted with Just One Tree – up to July 2023 more than 2,073 trees had been planted.

In addition, Adam is a trustee and contributor to the Veg Box Donation Scheme, a charity which accepts surplus produce from gardeners for the benefit of others, and he also supports Transform Trade.

A few people who will surely never need to consult Compost Guy for advice are the Johannes juniors, who are learning valuable lessons every day – in life as well as composting.  

Why is recycling harder than it should be?

This is a complaint commonly heard across the UK, except perhaps in Wales, which has one of the best recycling rates in the world – currently nearly 66 per cent, with plans to bump this up to 70 per cent by 2025. 

But across the rest of the UK, recycling rates have plateaued at around 43 per cent in recent years. 

Although 90 per cent of households in the UK routinely recycle, most people don’t find it easy. Confusion around council rules doesn’t help, with at least 39 different bin regimes running across 391 different local authorities.

 This postcode lottery is set to change within the next few years under the government’s Simpler Recycling plans. From the end of March 2026 all councils in England will be required to recycle the same materials and have a standard of three containers (bins, boxes or bags) – for general refuse (residual), mixed dry recycling and food waste.  

 There is now a list of items which all councils will recycle, including aluminium foil and certain types of plastic packaging. Similar measures will apply to businesses, hospitals, schools and universities, so people will be doing the same thing at home, work and school and will no longer need to check what their council will accept for recycling. The rules could also apply to places of worship, charity shops, prisons and hostels.

A game-changer in recycling will be the new rules governing extended producer responsibility (EPR), which mean producers of packaging will have to label their products to make it easier for people to know what can and can’t be recycled. They will also become responsible for the cost of recycling the packaging. To get ready for this, manufacturers of products such as Pringles, ketchup and toothpaste are upgrading production lines so that packaging will be fully recyclable.

It’s hoped that these initiatives will increase recycling rates to between 52-60 per cent by 2035.

Ready or not?

These are big changes, but will councils be ready?  The report mentioned above stated that uncertainty is stopping businesses and local authorities from preparing for the changes. As a result, there is a risk that there will be insufficient facilities to deal with increased volumes of recycling, meaning more plastic could be sent to landfill than before.

 Without the certainty of a long-term infrastructure plan, private sector companies are reluctant to invest in new recycling facilities. 

Countries with the best recycling rates understand the importance of educating the public. Germany has achieved the best rates in the world – almost 69 per cent – thanks to information campaigns and simplified labels on packaging.   

The best 16 councils for recycling in the UK are all in Wales. Pembrokeshire is top, with 73 per cent of household waste recycled. The Welsh school curriculum includes lessons on how food waste is converted into energy and schools organise trips to anaerobic digestion plants.

Dividing recycling into separate bins reduces contamination, such as cardboard getting wet from washed glass jars. Because uncontaminated waste is easier to recycle into higher-quality materials, councils get more money as a result. If people don’t know how to add items correctly to the right bins, the collected material is often heavily contaminated.

Recycling for profit

Part of the success in Wales is down to the public being well informed about the cost of contamination and the fact that their council can make money from the waste collected. Because every household has the same bins and separates the same materials, recycling is far less contaminated, which attracts companies that can recycle it for profit. Understanding this makes people far more likely to take care not to contaminate waste materials.

Did you know:

  • The council with the most waste collections in the country is Bristol with 13. It’s the only big English city to achieve above average recycling rates, with 46 per cent.
  •  According to WRAP (Waste and Action Resources Programme) more than half of the population miss opportunities to recycle common items.
  • People under 35 dispose of more items incorrectly than older people. Councils with a higher median age have better recycling rates.
  • The age group that recycles the most is 55 – 64-year-olds, who say they always recycle to the best of their ability.
  • The most rural areas recycle almost 10 per cent more than urban areas on average.

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