Here in Canada, road salts are a common solution for icy roads and sidewalks. In fact, the Government of Canada reports that about five million tonnes of road salts are used across the country every year, That’s a lot of salt! Here’s Why We Need To Ditch Salt On Our Roads!
It’s winter in Canada, and for most of us, that means taking extra precaution to stay safe: bundling up in thick clothes, warding off frostbite with bulky boots, swapping to winter tires… and dumping a ton of salt outside?
But road salts have also been officially identified as dangerous for the environment in Canada since 1995, when they were placed on the Canadian Environmental Protection Act’s Priority Substances List making the use of road salts a priority for assessment. Eventually, some suggestions for use reduction were made in 1999, then a Code of Practice was developed in 2003-2004. Today, in 2019, the Government of Canada still has not banned the use of road salts, despite the environmental impacts, citing safety concerns for the public.
We know, thanks to years of research, that road salts are terribly bad for the environment, damaging vegetation, organisms in soil, and harming birds and other wildlife. They can dry out paws, causing painful cracking for our pets after a walk around the neighbourhood. Road salts can cause accidents; animals like moose and deer are lured on highways to lick up the salt, getting hit by cars in the process. Plus, road salts corrode our vehicles, bridges, highways, and other important infrastructure.
So why are we still using them?
Last year, the National Post reported that Calgary tested out a beet juice mixture as a viable alternative. Unfortunately, they also report that alternatives can cost a city between six and 18 times more than the typical road salts, so it’s more difficult to move other municipalities to make the swap.
While we advocate for cities to adopt better methods (try writing a letter to your city councillor!), there are a number of eco-friendly alternatives you can try out at home:
- course sand, coffee grinds or kitty litter, which will create more traction under your feet
- sugar beet juice, like was used in Calgary
- eco-friendly, salt-free de-icer — a little pricier than salts, but well worth the added cost
Be sure to consider the environment and animals in your planning as you prepare for the worst of the snow and Canadian winter. Switch to an eco-friendly salt alternative.