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European youth hacks the European Commission's EU Green Week 2021

03 June 2021

Can we imagine a world without pollution? While this question was on everyone’s lips at the official opening of the EU Green Week 2021, European students chose action and took on the challenge as they participated in the “Gen-E Fights For Zero Pollution” hackathon.

After three days of intense work, the students revealed their innovative ideas to prevent pollution and help rebuild the balance of rivers, lakes and seas in Europe:

  1. The winning team from Cyprus, CIPEN, has developed a pen made from cigarettes buds - one of the top polluting single use products at our beaches, in particular in the Mediterranean. The judges were unanimous in praising them for innovative thinking, outstanding concept from problem to solution, in a true circular economy and zero pollution spirit;
  2. Coming second, team WATURA from Switzerland proposed to reduce the utilization of single-use plastic bottles while using algae waste (regularly harvested by the communes on the lake of Zurich), by creating new bio-degradable bottles that can degrade in a few weeks[...] from; and
  3. At the third place, team LUFFA from Estonia, developed a plant-based sponge that you can use for your dishwashing replacing the plastic sponge that many of us have, and hence helping to reduce microplastic pollution of the Baltic Sea.

Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries said that “the inventiveness of the European youth is taking us closer to a greener and healthier world. As we are setting ourselves very ambitious targets to end pollution in Europe, involving young people is the way forward and I am proud we could hear their voices at the EU Green Week 2021.”  

As co-organisers of the hackathon, the CEO of JA Europe Salvatore Nigro stressed that “more than half of the entrepreneurial projects our students develop tackle environmental issues. Their keenness to be part of the solution needs to be acknowledged and we are grateful to the European Commission for providing such a high-level platform to Gen-E to render the future.” 

Andželika Rusteikienė, CEO of JA Lithuania added: “We know that young people with an entrepreneurship education experience better grasp the benefits of the EU and are more positive about the future of the EU. This hackathon a great collaboration among JA members who teamed up to work on a brighter future together.

The EU Green Week is Europe's biggest annual conference on environment policy, bringing together participants from government, industry, non-governmental organisations, academia and the media for a unique exchange of ideas and best practices. The “Gen-E Fights for Zero Pollution” is a hackathon organised by JA Europe and JA Lithuania: over the duration of the EU Green Week 2021, 43 European students were given the challenge to come up with innovative ideas to prevent pollution and help rebuild the balance of rivers, lakes and seas in Europe. This hackathon is taking place in the run up to Europe’s largest Entrepreneurship Festival, Gen-E, taking place this summer.

About Gen-E

Gen-E is the largest European Entrepreneurship Festival, combining two annual European entrepreneurship contests — Company of the Year Competition (CoYC) and Europe Enterprise Challenge (EEC). It’s a celebration of entrepreneurship and achievements of Europe’s students, where thousands of young entrepreneurs, 15 years old onwards, showcase their cutting edge business ideas. The best student companies from across Europe will be recognized by a series of awards and special prizes. The 2021 Gen-E Entrepreneurship Festival is virtually hosted by JA Lithuania from 29 June till 15 July 2021.

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.

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