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EPA Announces University of Michigan, Kalamazoo’s Vestaron, Winners of the 2020 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards

Innovative technologies decrease hazardous chemicals, reduce costs, and spur economic growth

06/16/2020
Contact Information: 
Francisco Arcaute (arcaute.francisco@epa.gov)

312-886-7613, 312-898-2042 cell

For Immediate Release No. 20-OPA-057

CHICAGO (June 16, 2020) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of the 2020 Green Chemistry Challenge Awards. In Region 5, the winners are: Professor Steven Skerlos of the University of Michigan and Fusion Coolant Systems, and Vestaron, a Kalamazoo-based producer of biologically-based crop protection solutions.

Green Chemistry refers to the design of chemical products and processes to reduce or eliminate the generation and use of hazardous substances. This year’s winners have developed new and innovative technologies that turn potential environmental challenges into business opportunities, spurring innovation and economic development.

“Congratulations to the winners in Michigan for their innovation in creating green products to protect public health and save money by reducing the use of hazardous chemicals and conserving water and energy,” said EPA Region 5 Administrator Kurt Thiede.

“We congratulate these industrial pioneers and leading scientists on their remarkable technologies,” said EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention Assistant Administrator Alexandra Dapolito Dunn. “These innovations will help American businesses by reducing costs and opening up new markets for more environmentally friendly products and services.” 

Professor Skerlos created Pure-Cut, an alternative to traditional metalworking fluids that uses high-pressure carbon dioxide instead of oil-based lubricants.  Pure-Cut can improve performance and machining tool lifespan while greatly reducing hazards to worker health and the environment.

“The invention emanated from my research on machining fluids with Professors Andres F. Clarens and Kim F. Hayes,” said Arthur F. Thurnau Professor Steve Skerlos, University of Michigan. "It took the team at Fusion Coolant Systems, living its core values of sustainability and relentless attention to customers, for Pure-Cut to change the landscape of machining globally.”

Vestaron produced a new biopesticide called Spear which is based on a naturally occurring component inspired by spider venom. It can effectively control target pests while showing no adverse effects on people, the environment and non-target wildlife like fish and bees.  Spear should provide growers with a new pest management tool that also lessens environmental impacts.

“We are pleased and honored to be recognized for Vestaron’s accomplishments in developing and commercializing the active ingredient in Spear® bioinsecticide. For years, the use of peptide technology for pest control has been a desired but elusive goal of the crop protection industry,” said Dr. Robert M. Kennedy, Chief Scientific Officer, Vestaron Corp. “The capable and innovative Vestaron team and its investor backers has made Spear a commercially viable tool for growers.”

EPA plans to recognize the winners at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., later this year. This year’s awards have special meaning because it’s also the 30th anniversary of the Pollution Prevention Act, which focuses industry, government, and public attention on reducing the amount of pollution through cost-effective changes in production, operation, and raw materials use. Green chemistry and pollution prevention work hand in hand to stop pollution at its source, resulting in less waste, economic growth, and protection of public health. 

During the 24 years of the program, EPA and the American Chemical Society, which co-sponsor the awards, have received more than 1,600 nominations and presented awards to over 120 technologies that decrease hazardous chemicals and resources, reduce costs, protect public health and spur economic growth. Winning technologies are responsible for annually reducing the use or generation of hundreds of millions of pounds of hazardous chemicals and saving billions of gallons of water and trillions of BTUs in energy.

An independent panel of technical experts convened by the American Chemical Society Green Chemistry Institute formally judged the 2020 submissions and made recommendations to EPA for the 2020 winners.

More information: www.epa.gov/greenchemistry.

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