The government is under a great deal of commercial and ecological pressures to find safer alternatives to rock salt when taming winter roads. Most salt deicers are full of corrosive chemicals that affect metals, concrete, vegetation, and our waterways (learn more about the effects in our other blog post here). Each year, over 20 million tons of road salt is used for winter maintenance on U.S. roadways. Traditional methods of snow and ice removal cost the United States around 5 billion dollars per year, just in damages done to the road infrastructure and the environment.

Check out some of the salt alternatives being used around the country:

1. Grapes

Many studies have showed us that the antioxidants in red wine could do wonders for our circulatory systems. Now, researchers at Washington State University are confident that grapes are the answer to a sustainable alternative for road salt. They published their conclusions in the December 2019 issue of “Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering.” After a two-year lab study, the de-icing compound made of grape skin extract completely blew conventional de-icing methods out of the water, including road salt.

WSU researchers, including Xianming Shi (pictured right), ensure that the process to make the extract fluid produces no waste. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for curbing salt use and eliminating chlorides from being released into road operations. This discovery is still very new (as of posting this in Feb. ’20). You can expect to hear much more about this in the near future.

2. Beet Juice

After extracting sugar from beets in factories, the sugar wastewater is typically flushed. However, municipalities in New Jersey, Minnesota, and Canada have been using beet juice in their de-icing practices. Actually, the Missouri Department of Transportation stores around 30,000 gallons of beet juice readily available at a moment’s notice.

Beet juice requires salt brine to melt the ice. But when mixed with salt, beet juice helps the salt mixture in melting ice at lower temperatures. Regular salt works up until the temperatures reach 25 °F, whereas beet juice works well until 5 °F. This mixture uses less salt, which means less corrosiveness on the road and surrounding environment.

1. Grapes

Many studies have showed us that the antioxidants in red wine could do wonders for our circulatory systems. Now, researchers at Washington State University are confident that grapes are the answer to a sustainable alternative for road salt. They published their conclusions in the December 2019 issue of “Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering.” After a two-year lab study, the de-icing compound made of grape skin extract completely blew conventional de-icing methods out of the water, including road salt.

WSU researchers, including Xianming Shi (pictured right), ensure that the process to make the extract fluid produces no waste. It’s definitely a step in the right direction for curbing salt use and eliminating chlorides from being released into road operations. This discovery is still very new (as of posting this in Feb. ’20). You can expect to hear much more about this in the near future.

2. Beet Juice

After extracting sugar from beets in factories, the sugar wastewater is typically flushed. However, municipalities in New Jersey, Minnesota, and Canada have been using beet juice in their de-icing practices. Actually, the Missouri Department of Transportation stores around 30,000 gallons of beet juice readily available at a moment’s notice.

Beet juice requires salt brine to melt the ice. But when mixed with salt, beet juice helps the salt mixture in melting ice at lower temperatures. Regular salt works up until the temperatures reach 25 °F, whereas beet juice works well until 5 °F. This mixture uses less salt, which means less corrosiveness on the road and surrounding environment.

3. Pickle Brine

Brine from pickling foods helps tremendously with melting snow and ice. According to the National Geographic, pickle brine is better for the environment (than salt) because it prevents ice from sticking to the road, making it easier to remove. Using pickle brine in place of rock salt on the streets also means up to 29% less chloride added to our water systems. When used as a pre-treatment before snowfall, pickle brine prevents snow & ice from bonding to the pavement. The ice is then easily chipped off and removed, which is something that rock salt won’t do alone.

Bergen County in New Jersey faced a salt shortage in 2011 due to budget cuts. Forced to come up with a new plan-of-attack, pickle brine was their solution. The salty green liquid was sprayed on the roads and sidewalks as an experiment. It turned out to be waste-effective, because there is plenty of the stuff being discarded from factories and homes all the time. What’s more, using pickle brine is cost-effective at just 7 cents per gallon. This alternative is as effective, less expensive, and more environmentally friendly than using salt.

4. Cheese Brine

In the dairy capital of the U.S., some cities have gotten resourcefully creative with their efforts in melting snow and ice. Each year, Wisconsin has an excess of around 30,000-65,000 gallons of the salty water by-product that comes from cheese production, which is then put to waste. Instead of spending thousands of dollars each year to dispose of cheese brine, Polk County folks found a way to utilize it for keeping roads safe in the winter. Tens of thousands of gallons of cheese brine is dumped onto roads/sidewalks when snow is in the weather forecast; for the salt to stick to the roads and for ice to melt faster.

Applying cheese brine on the roads before a snowstorm hits works excellent as an anti-icing agent. It speeds up the melting process because it has a freezing point of -20.2 °F, compared to salt’s freezing point of -5.9 °F. A study conducted by the Polk County Highway Department shows that mixing cheese brine with salt reduced salt use by 40 percent. Furthermore, Polk County estimated that $40,000 was saved after using cheese brine after just one winter. Milwaukee has since added cheese brine to their de-icing recipe.

Posted by C. Butler on 2/19/20

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