Elementary School Students Prove Waste Management Can Be Sustainable – See What They Came Up With!

Vetro Challenge

Waste management plays a significant role in reducing environmental impact, improving air and water quality, and ultimately contributing to a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. Recognizing this pressing issue, the socially responsible company Vetropack Straža d.d. decided to organize the Vetro Challenge project in collaboration with the innovation agency Lean Startup Croatia.

Vetro Challenge brings the importance of sustainable waste management and the role of glass packaging in circular economy processes closer to elementary school children aged 11 to 14.

In numbers, Vetro Challenge looked like this:

  • 24 students
  • 6 teachers
  • 6 schools
  • 4 set challenges
  • 5 digital tools
  • 3 jury members
  • Vetro Challenge Lecture

Vetro Challenge predavanje

Vetro Challenge Challenges

Through four innovation challenges, Vetro Challenge raised awareness among students and encouraged them to see challenges as opportunities for innovation and finding solutions. The project’s goal is for students to independently devise positive changes in society and inspire them and their teachers to launch similar projects in their schools, promoting sustainability, recycling, and circular economy.

The challenges the students came up with were:

  1. How to educate the population about the better quality and health safety of food in glass packaging compared to other types of packaging?
  2. How to increase the recycling of all types of waste in our school?
  3. How to make glass containers visually and functionally more attractive to increase recycling habits?
  4. How to make glass packaging more appealing?

Vetro Challenge design thinking

Steps Ensuring Team Success

Educational sessions conducted at Vetro Challenge were designed to stimulate creativity and empathy in students, helping them better understand the problems they are solving – and for whom.

To devise a solution to the problem, students needed to know why the problem exists in the first place and what the consequences would be if the problem remained unsolved. For the initial exercise, teams were tasked with creating a problem tree in which they defined the main problem, causes, and consequences. All teams approached the task seriously, from the youngest to the slightly older ones, under the watchful eye of their teachers who played the role of mentors.

Vetro Challenge učenici

They then stepped into the “shoes” of their users and, with the help of Empathy maps, connected with the thinking of potential users. They considered how their users feel, what they do, and what they think. Using the design thinking method, students generated new innovative ideas more easily, utilizing various tools to meet real user needs. Design thinking is a methodology that requires students to creatively and entrepreneurially develop a solution that will meet the needs of users.

In this way, the project also encourages collaboration among students from different schools, critical thinking, and the initiation of similar initiatives in their school or even county.

Vetro challenge žiri

At the end of the full-day education, students presented their ideas in just four minutes before an expert jury, which had four minutes to ask questions.

Evaluation of Solutions and Announcement of Vetro Challenge Winners

The expert jury included industry professionals Petra Drenški (Vetropack Straža d.d.), Helena Matuša (Entrepreneurship Center of Krapina-Zagorje County), and Matija Hlebar (Association for Sustainable Development UZOR). The decision was tough, but the jury ultimately chose the top three teams.

The third-place was secured by the team “Mali zeleni” (“Little Greens”). The team devised a water bottle design, and they would sell their products with convenient jute bags named Panona, Goranka, and Primorka for easier and safer transport. Is there a better way to simultaneously show love for your homeland and the environment?

Prototip staklene boce Vetro Challenge

The second-place went to the team “Eco birds,” whose solution “Curious Bins” encourages curiosity and provides everyone with the opportunity to recycle in a fun and straightforward way.

The first-place was claimed by the team “Zeleni hum” (“Green Hum”). Their solution involves an “Interactive Bin” that, along with the application, offers additional points for the user and education on how to promote recycling. Teams will have the opportunity to develop their solutions even after the competition, and what they learned here, they say, will be remembered for a lifetime.

Students and their mentors expressed immense satisfaction with such projects, and our favorite question was still: “When are you planning the next competition?”

How We Experienced the Competition – Watch the Video:LINK

If you enjoyed this type of event, want to involve schools from your area in a similar project, or you want to organize a similar event yourself, contact us!


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