Children across the Waikato District know Paul Murray as Matua X-Man, the 'rubbish man' from Xtreme Zero Waste.

Now children in the Waipa District can benefit from his environmental lessons too.

Matua X-Man has spent two weeks at Pirongia School, educating the entire school and wider community, staff, parents and Board of Trustees about reducing and dealing with waste.

"Kids often ask 'why do you spend your day talking about rubbish,'" Murray said.


"I say 'well, because there's a whole number of environmental issues that people should be concerned about.

"Waste is unique in that every single day every single child, adult and teacher will be making decisions about what they hold in their hand and what they are going to do with it and where it's going to go and what will happen when they finish with it.

"So I call it everyday activism. Every day we have this opportunity to make the right choice about what we do with the waste.'"

From the five-year-olds right up to the year eight students, Murray was teaching the children what to put in their lunch boxes, what packaging materials their food came in, and broader topics such as renewable technologies and water use.

He used to be a school teacher but Murray's gone "off curriculum" for the last eight years to teach kids about the environment.

"I get to spend my day talking about meaningful things that have an impact, that inspire people, that induce change," he said.

"The joy for me is when I come back to schools, I hear even teachers say, 'since that class I've done this, I'm no longer using this, we started a compost at home, we don't put food in the waste anymore...'

"That's the greatest buzz, that ripple effect in being able to do this kind of work and hear the changes people have made."


Pirongia school was well on its way to becoming an enviroschool. Next term, it would begin a series of practical programmes to reinforce the children's learning.

"Our children in room one are very excited about worms," teacher Dee Wilson said.

"They love learning about nature and the environment. We can give them some cool messages about how to look after the environment and how our actions impact that environment if we are not looking after it."

The kids at Pirongia School also lapped it up.

"We learned that worms make compost and that some are striped," six-year-old Chloey said.

"The worms, they make the soil and they grow the plants with the soil and they help grow potatoes," Hannah, also six, said.

Already five-year-old Addison has a plan. "I'm gonna empty out my fire bin and fill it up with worms and veggies," she said.

The Xtreme Zero waste education programme relied on district council funding.

Murray thought other Waikato councils would benefit from zero waste education too, as Matua X-Man's message encouraged good practices for generations to come.

"Waste is seen as a social issue, but it's a behavioural issue too," he said.

"It's habits, it's values and so education is the key to shifting that behaviour."

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