Water pollution - grime-line

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Get Active - a Million Hands resource
Place the items onto the timeline and discuss how long it takes things to decay in water. How does this show why it is important not to let things get into water ways


images of items commonly found in rivers and waterways
• decomposing time line
• large sheet of paper and pens or whiteboard and pens
• Blu-Tack



What to do:
1 Search for and print off some images of items commonly found in rivers and waterways (or simply list some). Split the young people into large teams and give them the images/list of items. Ask them to match each item with the amount of time it takes for that item to decompose in the water.

2 Write the timeline below on a large piece of paper. The young people should then place the items in chronological order of decomposition, creating 
a ‘grime line’.

3 Ask each team to share their answers with the other teams and explain their rationale before the correct answers are revealed.

4 Ask the young people if they were surprised at how long some items take to decompose and the impact this might have on the process of treating that water until it is safe for us to drink.
• 3–4 weeks • 1 month • 2 months • 1 year • 50 years • 550 years • 200–500 years (but if recycled, it can be reused within just 6 weeks!) 
• 20–1,000 years • 1 million years • 1+ million years • 1–2 million years


3–4 weeks – banana skin; 1 month – paper bag; 2 months – cardboard; 1 year – woollen sock; 50 years – tinned steel can; 200–500 years (but if recycled, it can be reused within 6 weeks!) – aluminium can; 550 years – nappy; 20–1,000 years – plastic bag; 1 million years – plastic jug; 1 million+ years – glass; 1–2 million years – polystyrene
Why do people still need access to clean water?
Around 500,000 children die from diarrhoea every year as a result of unsafe water and poor sanitation and hygiene. Furthermore, the global water and sanitation crisis is actually the second largest killer of children under five years old. As Britons – with easy access to clean, running water – it’s easy to forget that not everyone benefits from the resources we do.
Our new charity partner, WaterAid, works with local partners in 26 countries to help their communities improve access to clean water and their sanitation. WaterAid also helps develop local-people skills and influences decision-makers to change policy and do more to provide these essential services.
You can find out more by heading to wateraid.org.uk. Plus, your Scouts can learn more by completing these activities, while earning the Community Impact Staged Activity Badge.


  • million hands
  • river
  • Water aid
  • Water pollution

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