Toxic Waste


Equipped with just 2 ropes, the group must work out how to transport a bucket of ‘Toxic Waste’ and return it back to the safe zone without tipping over the contents.  This fun team building challenge can also be known as ‘Bomb Removal’. This is an excellent team challenge for highlighting the importance of teamwork, problem solving and leadership.

Equipment Required:

  • 1 x toxic waste bucket (1 large bucket)
  • 1 x rope for the radiation zone
  • 2 x ropes of the same length to use to transport the waste bucket
  • 1 x raised platform (can use a stool seat to place the waste bucket)
  • 6 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: 8-12 (Can be used with as little as 6 team members)

Total Time: 35-55 minutes

  • 5 minutes to brief and setup
  • 5 minutes for group discussion and planning
  • 15-30 minutes for task completion
  • 10 minutes for reviewing and challenge debrief

Toxic Waste Setup

  • Create the toxic waste radiation zone by using the rope to create a circle of around 8-10ft 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 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.

Toxic Waste Team Building Challenge Instructions

  • 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 have just 20 minutes to complete the challenge, if they are unsuccessful, the waste will blow up and destroy the world.
  • Anyone who enters into 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.

Suggested Learning Outcomes

  • Communication
  • Decision Making
  • Planning
  • Problem Solving
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork


  • 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? Who’s 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?

Useful Tips

There is more than one way to complete this challenge, the best solution involves getting the 2 ropes, with 2 people standing across from each other (opposite sides of the circle), they keep overlapping the ropes to tighten the slack in the middle and eventually lift the toxic waste from the radiation zone.

If someone enters the radiation zone, then initiate a penalty for the rest of the challenge, such as loss of limbs (hand behind back) or sense (blindfold the participant or they cannot speak). If you want to be super strict, then you can say they have died and must sit out the challenge.

If the team fails and spills the content of the waste, tell them they have failed in their task and everyone is dead. Ask them to discuss the challenge, what worked, what didn’t? Refill the bucket and begin the challenge again.

You can add a red herring object to challenge, this will throw the group off as they think they have to use it to complete the challenge. This adds extra value to the team building challenge, and you can use this as a discussion point during the reviewing and de-briefing stage.

To vary the difficulty of the Toxic Waste, you can:

  • 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) in available equipment

Activity Variation

A quick variation of this challenge, is object retrieval. The group are 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.


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