The 2017 series of the European Youth Debating Competition targeting young students aged 16 to 19 throughout Europe concluded with the finals in Berlin, on October 1. Organized by the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) and PlasticsEurope, an international jury judged the finalists by criteria such as knowledge, ability of expression, persuasiveness and the ability to interact with others. The most convincing of the finalists, according to the panel's opinion were:
- Ilsu Ari (Lycée International des Pontonniers, Strasbourg)
- Daniel Ternes (Bischöfliches Cusanus Gymnasium, Koblenz)
- Kalina Spławska (XIV LO im. Stanisława Staszica, Warszawa)
- Ahlam Ouladali (Institut F. Vidal i Barraquer Tarragona, Tarragona)
- Nick Krüger (Internationale Deutsche Schule Paris, Paris)
- Henning Locher (Schlossgymnasium, Mainz, Germany)
- Arnav Aggarwal (Notre Dame International High School, Verneuil-sur-Seine)
- Anne Rother (Christian-Rohlfs-Gymnasium, Hagen, Germany)
- Noah Windemuth-Rotteveel (British School of Amsterdam, Amsterdam)
- Cecily Ward (Prendergast School, London)
The winners were announced and awarded in the presence of former secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, at the luncheon of the EPCA Annual Meeting.
Prior to the finals, all over Europe, young leaders had debated in seven European countries about how they imagine their future. The three best speakers from each participating country had qualified for the European Finals in Berlin. Between May and September 2017, national competitions were held in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, France and the United Kingdom where young students debated about society, the environment and the economy and how these all three are deeply affected by the digital revolution. In total, about 400 students received the opportunity to discuss and debate on the role of petrochemistry and plastics in the digital age. Students were invited to research and discover industry linked topics which might be new to them and express themselves in a convincing way.
The main objectives of the series launched by EPCA and PlasticsEurope are to promote STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), to empower students with soft skills and to encourage them to further discover and exchange on the contribution of petrochemistry and plastics in the digital age.
Whilst at the same time for the petrochemical and plastics industry, the competition is an opportunity to listen to the views and expectations of the next generation of leaders.
As society, environment, and economy are all deeply affected by the digital revolution, in the 2017 EYDC series the students were challenged to discuss how we can improve our quality of life and reduce our environmental footprint at the same time. Touching topics like e-mobility, solar cells, modern communication and the workplace of the future, the young leaders had to build their own opinion and answer to the question: Petrochemistry and plastics: are they part of the problem or key to overcoming these challenges?
Following two opening statements presented by experts (one pro and one con), the students started their debate. In several debating rounds, five fixed speakers each represented the pro- and the con-faction, while free speakers who represented the public, evaluated the arguments and posed questions.
The young professionals discussed the production, use and disposal of modern products made from petrochemicals and plastics. While they acknowledged their usefulness, they also questioned their necessity and scrutinized their impact on the environment. The millennials did not only think about topics that are everyday subjects in their own life in the industrialized countries of Europe but also dealt with issues of their peers in third-world countries.
Supporters of the petrochemical and plastics industry praised the benefits of petroleum-based products. One said: “erasing plastics (from our lives) is just a beautiful utopia”, but the others also claimed “we need to innovate to find new resources” and “we must use petrol to save petrol.” It bespoke the thoughtfulness of the debaters that they also considered things like “we need to rethink the way how to produce petrochemicals” and “the customers are responsible for how to use plastics in a proper way.” On the other hand, one girl questioned the way our society is heading in general by saying: “the human being grows lonely in a digital and smart city.” The conclusion of the 2017 European Youth Debating Competition seemed to be a statement of one of the young leaders who said: “we are heading in a good direction to reduce our footprint on the environment” followed by another student who stated “reducing, reusing, and recycling (plastics products) are the keys for the future.”