From cheese brine to beet juice, these locally-sourced, environmentally-friendly de-icers are turning waste into safe driving.
Outside of the ocean, few plants or animals thrive when saturated with salt. Which means the mountains of rock salt spread over roads and sidewalks each winter amounts to an environmental catastrophe — roadside vegetation withers and salt-laden runoff kills fish and aquatic organisms in nearby waterbodies.
In recent years, scientists have developed alternative de-icers, many of them agricultural byproducts, so that we don’t have to choose between driving safely and polluting the environment.
A byproduct of the beet sugar and molasses industries, this is one of the most common food-based de-icer. It is used in conjunction with rock salt, cutting down significantly on the amount of salt required and making it more effective at lower temperatures. If you ever emerge from your front door on a winter morning to the smell of molasses, now you know why.
Common in dairy-producing regions like Wisconsin, this waste product already contains salt, but organic compounds in the brine significantly enhance the salt’s ice-melting ability so overall much less salt is needed to keep roads clear. Added benefit: roadways emanate the pungent aroma of a cheese boutique afterwards.
Whiskey, wine, beer, bourbon and other alcoholic beverages are increasingly important to the ice management industry. That’s because producing them results in an organic waste product — distiller’s “mash,” for example, and spent brewer’s grains — which possess chemical properties that makes ice melt at lower temperatures. That’s something we can all raise a glass to.