Sunday, November 27, 2022

Why is Road Salt Bad for the Environment?


As soon as it gets slippery in winter, some people still resort to salt when gritting the sidewalk - and harm nature and wildlife in the process. But there are environmentally friendly alternatives to the millions of tons of road salt that work just as well. 

Why is Road Salt so bad for the Environment?

In the short term, the advantages of road salt seem obvious; after all, it lowers the freezing point of water. It thus prevents ice formation and melts ice that has already formed. This makes roads and paths passable again in no time.

The Downside

Salt brought into nature in this way directly harms the environment. On the one hand, road salt damages plant growing along the roadside, and on the other hand, it seeps into the ground with meltwater, where it can accumulate in the soil for years. The resulting high salt content in the soil makes it harder for plants to absorb water and nutrients. In the long term, this leads to a lack of nutrients, crusted soil, diseases, and earlier death.

Damage to Plants and Animals

But it is not only plants that suffer from salt; this aggressive gritting agent is also harmful to animals. Dog paws, for example, are attacked by salt and can become inflamed. If the four-legged friends also lick their paws after a walk, the salt also gets into their stomachs. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea are often the result.

In particularly bad cases, the ingestion of road salt can even lead to death in animals, because some salts contain ethylene glycol, an odorless, sweet-tasting substance that dogs like to lick up. Poisoning with this substance can cause severe kidney damage and, in the worst case, fatal kidney failure.

In addition to living creatures, road salt also harms materials that are actually considered robust: For example, when combined with moisture, the salt can develop corrosive properties that can lead to decomposition in cars and on buildings.

What are the Environmentally-Friendly Alternatives to Road Salt?

The best preventive measure to avoid unwanted slides is to quickly remove snow from the paths. So there's no getting around grabbing a snow shovel and shoveling snow. To make the cleared paths non-slip afterward,  however, road salt is not needed. In many municipalities, the private use of salt is now also prohibited and subject to a fine.

Sand and Limestone

Sand and limestone are among the environmentally friendly alternatives to road salt because they have a dulling effect. While they do not melt ice, they do increase grip on the ground, preventing slippage.

To apply sand or limestone granules, the snow should first be cleared aside with a snow shovel. Then you can generously apply the material to the ground because in this case, a lot helps a lot. In return, however, everything can be swept up and reused after use without any problems.

Similar to sand and limestone, lava granulate also has a blunting effect, so that the natural product can convince with immediate slip resistance. It should therefore not be missing in the winter supply store. Unlike road salt, lava granules are frost-resistant and do not dissolve. The porous structure also ensures that melt water is absorbed. Another advantage is that adjacent plants do not suffer any damage from the use of this gritting material. The same applies to the use of clay

Grit: Not Always Recommended

Grit also makes icy paths less slippery. Some of the grit offered may contain toxic substances. In addition, the production and disposal of grit cost a lot of energy, which does not go hand in hand with a sustainable eco-balance.




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