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European STEM students present innovative solutions for waste management and recycling

21 May 2021

For the 12th consecutive year, JA Europe and ExxonMobil have partnered through the Sci-Tech Challenge aiming to empower young people to tackle the challenges of tomorrow by using a combination of entrepreneurship and STEM skills. The 2021 Grand Finale brought together the best students from 5 countries - Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania – with the help of ExxonMobil volunteers.

After successfully going through their national challenges, 25 students from across Europe met yesterday for the 2021 Sci-Tech Challenge Grand Finale, celebrated online for the second time due to the Covid-19 restrictions. Five teams competed in front of a high-level jury panel composed by Virginia Janssens, Managing Director at PlasticsEurope; Markus Liebhard, teacher at the Higher Technical Education Institute “Wolfsberg” in Austria; Mónica Pérez Lobo, Director for Sustainability and ESG Management at Toyota; and presided by Nikolaas Baeckelmans, VP of EU Affairs at ExxonMobil.

This year, several innovative solutions were presented to showcase the use of STEM skills in solving a challenge linked to the management of waste during and after an outdoors music festival. Only in the United Kingdom, 23,000+ tons of waste are produced by festivals every year, posing a challenge to their organizers as they must address these issues without compromising the attendees’ experience. In addition, high-tech musical and video recording equipment are heavily reliant on top-notch engineering, and the general logistics and planning of the venue require good operations management.

Team GreenFest came up with the most innovative idea using entrepreneurship and a combination of STEM skills to come up with a biofuel created via the hydrothermal liquefaction of food waste and cellulose-made utensils to power the transportation trucks needed to relocate the products during different festival editions. In addition, the trucks will contain a meticulous design that supports the refrigeration of products during the day, while using biofuels to ensure the adequate cooling down during the nightly hours.

Increased focus on STEM-education is timelier than ever: the Covid-19 context has shown the importance of science and innovation in finding solutions to the most pressing global challenges, including health, climate, and energy. Joanna Drake, Deputy Director-General at the European Commission’s DG for Environment stated that “the future is Green and it is the young, talented people of today who can make our Europe of tomorrow more resilient, inclusive and sustainable. Deep knowledge of data-intensive technologies and associated skills will be crucial in responding to environmental challenges; notably, climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution”.

Philippe Ducom, President ExxonMobil Europe, added that “STEM skills are critical to address societal challenges, such as waste in the environment, through practical solutions such as increased plastic recyclability, improvements in plastic waste recovery, and innovative recycling technologies. ExxonMobil is committed to inspiring and preparing students to pursue STEM careers. This is why we need to empower young scientists, technologists, engineers and mathematicians; they will be the innovators of tomorrow”.

Today’s Sci-Tech Challenge engaged youth across Europe to tackle the challenge of recycling in the context of a mass event, using their entrepreneurial creativity to serve a good cause. To reach the objectives of the European “Green Deal”, which aims at realizing a sustainable economy and making Europe a climate-neutral continent by 2050, our schools must equip the next generation with robust STEM and entrepreneurship skills to turn these challenges into opportunities”  – Salvatore Nigro, CEO JA Europe


About JA Europe

JA Europe is the largest non-profit in Europe dedicated to preparing young people for employment and entrepreneurship. JA Europe is a member of JA Worldwide® which for 100 years has delivered hands on, experiential learning in entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy. JA creates pathways for employability, job creation and financial success. Last school year, the JA network in Europe reached almost 4 million young people across 40 countries with the support of nearly 100,000 business volunteers and over 140,000 teachers/educators.

About ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil, one of the largest publicly traded international energy companies, uses technology and innovation to help meet the world’s growing energy needs. ExxonMobil holds an industry-leading inventory of resources, is one of the largest refiners and marketers of petroleum products, and its chemical company is one of the largest in the world. To learn more, visit exxonmobil.com and the Energy Factor Europe, and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

About the Sci-Tech Challenge

The Sci-Tech Challenge is designed to motivate students, aged 15-18, to consider science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-oriented careers, and to raise their awareness of the importance of their STEM skills and how they can be applied in enterprising ways to tackle the challenges of tomorrow. In 2021, more than a thousand students from Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, the Netherlands and Romania took part in a year-long programme focusing on combining STEM education with a practical entrepreneurial experience. The joint initiative by JA Europe and ExxonMobil runs for the 12th consecutive year and has involved about 60.000 students from 2010.

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