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Iowa companies reduce pollution, improve air quality through college internship program

  • 5/9/2024 2:49:00 PM
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DES MOINES – May 6 - 10 is Air Quality Awareness Week, and Iowa companies have a decades-long track record of reducing air emissions through improved manufacturing processes, the use of innovative energy-efficient equipment and more. 

One Iowa Department of Natural Resource (DNR) program that has made a difference is the Pollution Prevention Intern Program. College students are matched with top Iowa companies to identify cost-effective strategies that generate positive environmental results. Several projects focus on energy and waste reduction projects that contribute to better air quality. 

Since 2001, dozens of companies have saved more than $116.6 million through the internship program. These projects conserve energy and water, reduce hazardous material usage, divert waste from landfills, and reduce air emissions. Specific savings include:

  • 513 million kilowatt hours of electricity, enough to power 46,700 homes annually
  • 15,947 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent (MTCO2e)*, comparable to removing 3,800 gasoline-powered cars from the road for one year
  • 23.7 million therms of energy
  • 6.06 billion gallons of water
  • 274,855 tons of solid and special waste
  • 10,242 tons of hazardous waste

*The potency of the various greenhouse gases differs, so greenhouse gas emissions are typically converted to a unit of measure called carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) that allows for better comparison of the impact of the different greenhouse gases.

Examples of projects include the installation of new HVAC, boiler and steam systems; increased motor efficiencies; water/wastewater treatment improvements; water use reductions, compressed air system improvements, solid/hazardous waste generation reduction and more.

“Our intern was able to dig into our systems and gather data that will help us make strategic decisions in the future,” said Ben Evans, Polaris Industries. “He was able to work independently and dedicate the time and resources to the system that we had historically lacked the band-width for in our day-to-day activities.”

Interns are often engineering or environmental science majors from Iowa’s public and private colleges. A new round of students will begin their internship projects this summer with several companies, including:

  • Ajinomoto, Eddyville
  • AE Dairy – Washout, Des Moines
  • AE Dairy – Product Loss, Des Moines
  • Burke Marketing Corporation – Hormel Foods, Nevada
  • CF Industries – Sergeant Bluff
  • Gelita – Sergeant Bluff
  • JBS Swift Pork – Ottumwa
  • JBS USA – LLC, Marshalltown
  • Kemin Industries – Des Moines
  • Woodward Resource Center – Woodward

To learn more about the Pollution Prevention Intern Program, go to: