During the winter, we’re used to rock salt on our cars, our sidewalks and our roads. In fact, the use of rock salt on U.S. roads has skyrocketed in the last 50 years. The USEPA estimates that 11 million tons is used each year. The problem is that all that salt finds its way into surface waters and groundwater. Increased salinity in the water leads to numerous environmental problems like toxicity to plants and fish, water supply contamination, and harmful human health interactions.
But the good news is that beets – the same root vegetable you probably avoid eating – are a great alternative to rock salt for de-icing roads.
Well, it’s not beets in the form you are probably picturing.
Sugar beets provide a natural, biodegradable, “green” solution to slippery roads. As an additive to rock salt and saline, this “beet juice” increases the effectiveness of salt and offers a good option for protecting environmentally-sensitive areas.
For the past few years, ODOT has been experimenting with a mixture of salt and sugar beet extract, with successful results. It doesn’t completely replace rock salt, but it does help salt work more efficiently and effectively, and reduces the amount of salt that ends up in our water supplies and streams.
What’s next? Will brussels sprouts be found to increase fuel efficiency?