Toxic Waste

30 minutes
Toxic Waste
Learning Outcomes

This activity develops collaboration skills. Like no other group initiative tasks, it is designed to offer real challenges to develop your communication, listening and leadership skills. Within a trusting and supportive environment, these challenges are often successfully met through team work. You’ll only need a little equipment to learn a lot about your own skills but also how to implement the best skills in a team and be creative.

Resources & Preparation Needed
  • 1 x large (toxic waste) bucket 
  • 1 x small bucket
  • 1 x rope for the radiation zone
  • 1 x Bungee cord loop 
  • 8x Bungee cords
  • 8 x tennis balls or you can use water (to represent toxic waste)
  • Blindfolds (optional)

Space required: Medium. Indoors or outdoors (outdoor allows for water to be used as ‘toxic waste’ rather than tennis balls).

Group size: Ideally 8 – 12 (can be done with as few as 6 team members)

Toxic Waste Setup:

  • Create the toxic waste radiation zone by using the rope to create a circle of around 2 – 3 meters in diameter on the ground. The bigger the radiation zone, the more challenging the activity becomes.
  • Place your platform in the middle of the circle you have created
  • Fill the bucket with water or tennis balls and place it on top of the platform in the centre of the radiation zone.
  • Put the 2 ropes on the outside of the radiation zone, ready to use.

Explain that the challenge is for the group to work out how to transport the toxic waste bucket in the radiation zone to the safe zone using only the equipment provided.  The team has just 20 minutes to complete the challenge. If they are unsuccessful, the waste will blow up and destroy the world.

Anyone who enters the radiation zone will suffer a fatal injury and possibly death.  Therefore the group should aim to remove the toxic waste and do so without injury to any group members.

The rope circle represents the radiation zone.  Emphasise that everyone must maintain a safe distance from the toxic waste wherever it goes, and stay out of the radiation zone.

Allow the team 5 minutes to discuss and plan for the challenge. During this period, no one is allowed to attempt to retrieve the toxic waste.

Activity variation:

A quick variation of this challenge is object retrieval. The group is tasked with retrieving an object (piece of paper, water bottle etc) from the middle of the circle without any equipment. In order to achieve this, they will need to work together as a team.

To vary the difficulty of this activity:

  • Adjust the time allowance
  • Add an extra safety zone which they need to transport the bucket to using markers. You can even add obstacles between the radiation and safety zone
  • Include a red herring objects (or even a few) using available equipment
Ideas For Reflection
  • How would you rate your team out of 10 for completion of the challenge?
  • How did you respond to the challenge?
  • How did you generate ideas for completing the task? Whose idea did you choose?
  • Did you have a leader? How important was leadership?
  • Was everyone involved?
  • What did you learn about yourself as a team member?
  • What lessons did you learn from the challenge?
  • How is this relevant and when would it be used in future situations?