The Big Question

Where does our rubbish go?

Where does our rubbish go?

Activity overview

30 mins+
Ages 7 – 9

Science topics:


Plan a fun investigation and get your class thinking about the environment

Run the activity in 4 steps


Planning an investigation will really get your class thinking like scientists. How will they investigate where our rubbish goes?

Explain that you will be working as a class to answer a big question. Present it to the class. What do the pupils already know or think they know about how ther rubbish is handled?


Discuss as a class the different ways you can approach the question. To help the class breakdown the question, here are some prompts:

  • Is all rubbish the same?
  • Is some rubbish harmful/dangerous?
  • Who collects rubbishes from our homes?


How will they – as a group – explore the question? Prompt pupils to explain their ideas, qualify them with what they already know and refine them based on views expressed by other people. What is their plan for the investigation? Here are some tips:

  • What will they measure, and how?
  • How will they record it?
  • What do they need to do to make sure they are accurate?


Ask the class to imagine they had to present their investigation at school assembly or to their family, how would they show their action plan? Discuss as a class the various ways this could work. Why not let the pupils carry out their investigation?

Background science

An average household in the UK produces over a tonne (1000kg) of rubbish each year. In two hours, the amount of rubbish we create in the UK would fill the Royal Albert Hall in London. Each family throws away about six trees worth of paper every year too.

Many products can be quite easily recycled and reused, including paper, cardboard, garden waste, plastic and glass bottles. But other rubbish is harder to deal with, much of it going to landfill or being burned to produce electricity.

Recently action has been taken in the UK to address plastic waste that is polluting rivers and seas, by reducing the amount of plastic packaging that we use and raising awareness of the consequences of plastic pollution on all forms of wildlife and how tiny plastic fragments enter the foodchain.


Take it further

We haven't made completing the investigation part of the task, because figuring out how to approach the question is where the great high-level thinking happens. But if your class is keen, investigate the question using one of the methods you came up with together, either on the day or at a convenient point. What did you find?

You might also like to look at this investigation on plastics from BBC Terrific Scientific


Image credit: Tom Rolfe via Flickr CC BY-NC