From time to time I get asked some frequent questions as to what “Trash to Treasure” is all about. Here are a few answers to some of those questions:


The charitable objects and purposes of the Trust are as follows:

a)      To reduce solid waste entering landfill by transforming it into learning experiences for young children.

b)      To benefit young children’s learning through learning experiences made from reused/repurposed solid waste materials.

Familiar objects from the home and the wider world presented in a different context give children concrete experiences to explore and gain control of their bodies. Everyday objects stimulate thinking, increase knowledge and understanding through fun, real, inexpensive and sensorial experiences fulfilling children’s learning needs. Children manipulate objects developing self-confidence and perseverance and promoting imaginative play.

c)      To promote sustainable practices in the education sector and the wider community.

d)      To change behaviour and raise involvement in sustainable practices the wider community. To promote the acceptance of sustainable practice in the wider community.

e)      To encourage the normalization of sustainable practices in education, and encourage children’s attitudes that promotes the development of environmentally responsible adults.

f)       The trust works to instil a positive environmental ethos in children from a young age.

g)      To support innovation in education.

h)      The trust is motivated by a passion for the education of young children and the environment. It is committed to working in ways that contribute to sustainability both now and in the future while staying true to the values of being fair, honest, positive and creative in decisions made and actions taken. It is supported by a willingness to share ideas and knowledge with others for the benefit of all.

i)        To provide professional development to the education sector and the community.

j)        To engage fathers and father figures in the education of their children, and strengthen father-child relationships.


What is it that this work has achieved and what makes it special or unique?

Adam has designed and made innovative equipment for young children from solid waste, using materials from the home environment and the wider world, to inspire and enrich young children’s learning through manipulating and exploring real world objects. This project has diverted waste from landfill and linked people from the wider community to the early childhood environment, knowing that they are contributing their solid waste to be transformed into something useful.

Describe the innovative and/ or creative aspects of the project.

No one else is doing this type of work in the same way, where everyday items are recycled and used items find a new use en mass. Solid waste materials are transformed into something useful for educational purposes; the equipment is uniquely designed and mass produced for young children to enrich their learning. It has grown out of a passion for the education of young children and the environment; and involves a willingness to share creative ideas with others for the benefit of all.

The design of the equipment, recycling everyday items in a manner that is both safe and interesting to young children, engages children to extend their learning. The equipment is adult made for children; it is popular and enjoyed by children, teachers and the wider community. This work encourages collaboration between educators, the community and industry and engages fathers to be involved in recycling and education. It is supported by articles, workshops, a website and a book to educate and inspire others to reuse waste. The workshops and book encourage educators to think more imaginatively about the value of discarded materials. Sharing with my colleagues creative ways to reuse solid waste materials shows them new ways of thinking about waste, influencing their teaching philosophy and practice.

What environmental issue is this project addressing?

The purpose of this work is to promote and raise involvement in sustainable practices in early education and the wider community. It is to introduce education for sustainable development into early childhood centres and homes. The period 2005-2014 has been declared as the United Nations decade of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The role of early childhood in ESD is seen as very important in spreading the acceptance of sustainable practice in the wider community. The 7R’s of ESD are reduce, reuse, recycle, respect, repair, reflect and refuse, and these concepts underpin this work.

This work promotes waste minimization through reusing solid waste materials to produce equipment for young children and encourages others to reduce and reuse solid waste through education and example.

Tell us briefly how the project helps to address the issue

Adam enjoys encouraging others to find creative ways to reuse waste. He demonstrates how to reuse solid waste materials at workshops and role models this by producing innovative equipment for young children from recycled materials. Through the book “Turning Trash into Treasure for Young Children” educators and parents are given a range of affordable and practical suggestions to introduce ESD into early childhood centres and homes. The ideas within this work also provide opportunities for children to experience and develop an understanding of materials, tools and systems which are a critical element in the growth of children’s technological literacy.

This work demonstrates how recycling can have positive outcomes for early childhood centres and the community as well as the environment. It is about reusing discarded materials in a different and meaningful way, to make a difference for the environment beyond simply a good idea.

This work increases community awareness of reducing and reusing solid waste; it demonstrates and teaches others what they can do with their waste and links communities together. From making this equipment Adam has so far diverted around 7700kg of solid waste from landfill. The sharing of ideas and new knowledge on sustainability with peers and colleagues can and does influence their teaching philosophy and their practice.

Does the Project involve a cooperative effort between multiple people, community groups, or organisations?

Adam uses the media to stimulate interest and get people talking; this helps to form links with the community. Articles published about this work in the local paper have provided contacts and resources. This links people from the wider world to the preschool environment. The project involves a cooperative effort between multiple people and community groups in sourcing the waste. Waste materials are collected from local businesses, and most are happy to give it away because they are saving money in rubbish collection fees. Adam uses business directories for phone numbers when searching for particular resources, e.g. leftover cellophane from a florist.

Describe whether or not the project has any other social or economic benefits beyond the environmental benefit?

A wider social benefit from this work has been the involvement of parents, and in particular it has encouraged a rapport with men. Through helping to obtain resources or helping to make equipment, parents engage with early childhood centres. Involving fathers and father figures benefits their infants and children and therefore, the whole family.

Has anything similar to the project been implemented before in a country outside New Zealand?

The Remida Center in Reggio Emilia, Italy, promotes a similar type of work and shares some similar qualities. The Remida Centre promotes the idea that waste materials can be resources. It is a creative recycling centre that takes manufactured end-products obtained from unsold stock and rejects or discarded materials from industrial and handicraft production. These are organized into a centre for creative and educational use by educators and the community. Remida is a cultural project that represents a new, optimistic, and proactive way of approaching environmentalism and building change through giving value to otherwise worthless objects, to foster new opportunities for communication and creativity in a perspective of respect for objects, the environment, and human beings.

Does the project raise awareness or educate others about environmental issues?

This work has raised awareness and educated the public about sustainable practices and waste minimisation through producing educational equipment from solid waste materials, promoting and modelling the reuse of waste materials in hands on workshops, and presentations at conferences, through a variety of media, a website and the publication of the book “turning trash into treasure for young children”.

There are many ‘activity centers’ and other educational equipment in early childhood centres across Auckland and other places in the North Island, children use them enthusiastically and adults see them in action. They demonstrate how solid waste can be transformed into something useful and educational.

I have given over one hundred hands-on workshops and power point presentations for teachers, lecturers and child care providers with suggestions on how to use recycled materials in the early childhood setting, these are all well attended.