Waste heroes help schools clean up their act

10 December 2019

Music, rap songs and singalongs, Māori mythology, tours and hands-on activities are just some of the tools used to entertain and engage students in a waste minimisation programme – and applications for 2020 are open for schools to sign up now.

Image of a taniwha in Waste Heroes performance at Kelburn School

A Taniwha performs at Kelburn School

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Wellington Waste Heroes is a Wellington City Council led programme helping schools learn about waste minimisation through performances, waste audits, tours to the Southern Landfill and OJI recycling facility. The programme has been running for two years, and includes specialist lessons the students and teachers can choose from like composting, love food hate waste classes, music videos, junk fashion and the science of plastic.

At the end of the programme, support is given to run a whole school project, to achieve an outcome of their choosing, whether it be community focused, or establishing a waste minimisation system like a compost bin or recycling.

The Council’s Waste Minimisation team worked with a specialist educator to design the programme from scratch, and then enlisted help from Organic Wealth which provides a group of talented specialist educators to deliver the programme, according to Jennifer Elliott, Waste Minimisation Manager.

“We wanted it to be unique, engaging and exciting, and avoid the usual waste audit, reduce, reuse and recycle lessons.

“We identified three key messages that were relevant to Wellingtonians and our efforts to reduce waste to landfill by a third in the next 10 years, and built the programme from there – these are to reduce waste food, say no to single use plastic, and recycle, recycle, recycle.”

Waste Minimisation portfolio leader Councillor Laurie Foon says this initiative was ambitious but the team’s hard work has really paid off.

“The programme not only teaches about waste but inspires a culture change and a shift in behaviours, which we really need for lasting success. By all accounts the students love it – and the Waste Heroes are rightly proud of what they offer and what they have achieved.”

Eleven schools have taken part in the programme since it was piloted in 2018, with projects including Berhampore School’s Beeswax Wrap making workshops, Ridgeway School’s Comprehensive Recycling and Composting system, and Kilbirnie School’s video about the programme.

Churton Park School teacher Kelly was one of the first to experience the programme. 

“Thanks so much for your hard work with this exciting programme.  I really love the range of things you brought to our school and the varied ‘experts’ who our children responded really positively to.

“I admire the energy and passion for what you all do – it’s always great to work with people who enjoy their work. Thanks for letting Churton Park School be a part of Wellington Waste Heroes this year.”

Part of the programme is an interactive whole school show, an exciting, engaging and inspiring performance about the impact waste has on our environment, and what the audience can do to help.

Adapted from traditional Māori mythology, two Taniwha - Ngake and Whataitai - are faced with waste in Wellington Harbour, preventing them from making it into the ocean. Students listen and sing along to traditional Māori music and dance to modern songs adapted to a waste theme.

Taniwha performer James Micael says the show was inspired by Matariki, the tohorā whale that came into Wellington harbour in July 2018.

“We gave it a call from the wild crying out for Ngake and Whataitai to come and help humans fix their world.

“Kids already know a lot about recycling, but this programme enhances their heartfelt connection and emotional response to the environment, and encourages them to get all their family and friends involved in protecting what we love.”

The school is also given support and access to grant funding to implement a whole school project.

For more details and how to sign-up, contact the team at waste.education@wcc.govt.nz.