University of Nebraska-Lincoln students will work with several businesses over the next two summers to reduce water, energy and material use, as well as wastewater and solid waste, through an Environmental Protection Agency grant.
In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act, the EPA announced recipients of $9 million in grant money to take on projects ranging from improving the efficiency of food processing plants to the metal manufacturing industry.
UNL will receive about $236,000 to send students to four different companies in both 2021 and 2022 to provide on-site technical assistance.
For 10 weeks in the summer, upperclassman students from several different majors at UNL will work as consultants, helping food processors and metal manufacturers find ways to reduce their water and energy use, as well as slash solid and wastewater production.
Bruce Dvorak, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, said the grant employs students from disciplines such as civil, chemical, mechanical and biological systems engineering to work with businesses on "improving sustainability while saving money."
The competitive grant program gives students a chance to apply their learning in real-world settings that goes beyond an internship.
For example, one UNL student will look at how a central Nebraska slaughterhouse can further process animal waste to cut down on transportation costs of those materials, as well as the environmental footprint of the company.
As part of its Partners in Pollution Prevention program, Dvorak said each of the businesses where UNL sends students to work is also required to pay a $5,000 match to help with project planning and support.
EPA Region 7 Administrator Jim Gulliford said it's not unusual for students to land positions at the companies where they gain practical experience during the summer programs.
The work done by students will remain proprietary to each business, but case studies with recommendations will be available to other businesses that wish to study their own environmental impact, Gulliford added.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the grants will "cut pollution and advance innovation and economic growth."
A total of 42 grants will be awarded this year ranging from $25,000 to $498,000.
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