It's that time of year where streets and sidewalks are covered in snow, ice – and salt. Not only is incredibly snow covered here in Chicago, its also incredibly cold, too cold for salt to melt the ice. Currently many cities are experimenting with a beet juice and salt blend to melt the ice. Salt loses its effectiveness when the temperature falls below 20 degrees, but when combined with beet juice the mix can melt ice at 20 degrees below zero.
While salt may be one of the cheapest ways to melt ice, it's also one of the most environmentally detrimental. Salt crystals melt and make their way into landscaping and groundwater therefore killing vegetation and polluting waterways.
The beet juice is waste product when sugar is extracted from sugar beets. Using beet juice decreases the amount of salt needed to de-ice, and is also more friendly to the environment. When mixed with calcium chloride or other salts beet juice is a great alternative to raw rock salt. Beet juice is biodegradable and supposedly doesn't corrode metals, concrete, or landscaping the way pure salt does. The purple hue is lost during the beet juice processing, though some cities have complained of brownish brine.
The product cities are using is called Geomelt – its more expensive than standard rock salt but it has been reported that less is required to work.
Looking for other green alternatives to melting the ice? We've heard these work well for melting or providing traction:
• Alfalfa Meal
• Unscented Cat Litter
• Wood Ash
• Coal Ash