The traditional approach to deicing roads is to cover the roads (and thus the ground around the road) in salt – which is absolutely awful for the environment. Because so many people drive cars the demand for road salt is high and has come to negatively impact local economies and environments.
There is a solution to make salting less damaging and it’s already being used in some communities.
Beets are usually just used to create sugar or, like at Schrute Farms, beet soup. In Ontario roadworks departments have been using a byproduct from beet sugar processing to clear ice off of roads. They mix the beet byproduct with salt to create a new brine that works better and harms less.
Niagara Region has used the mixture for about three years, resulting in a 30 per cent reduction in road salt which damages tender fruit trees and vines, said Dave MacLeod, the region’s manager of transportation operations and technology.
The Ontario transportation ministry is working with Oakville and Grey County to test the effectiveness of other beet juice-based products that are added to brine, said a ministry spokesman.
“The ministry’s objective is to provide safe highways for all travellers by using the best available technology. At the same time, we recognize our responsibility to protect the environment, so we use technology to help us determine the best way to clear our highways in the most environmentally friendly, cost-effective way,” he said.