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icy roads

Wisconsin Fights Icy Roads with Cheese Brine Waste

icy roadsMilwaukee is using cheese brine waste to de-ice city roads as a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to rock salt, which can wash away and pollute waterways.

Wisconsin, which makes more cheese than any other US state, produced 2.7 billion pounds in 2012, the New York Times reports. This also creates a waste management issue: a surplus of cheese brine that must be sent to waste treatment plants.

Cheese brine can be used on roads if limited to eight gallons per ton of rock salt used.

Chuck Engdahl, the wastewater manager at F & A Dairy Products in northwestern Wisconsin, tells the newspaper his company now donates most of the brine to municipalities that pick it up from the dairy, saving him about $20,000 a year in hauling costs.

Polk County, Wisc. saved $40,000 in rock salt expenses in 2009, the year it started using cheese brine on its highways.

The New York Times reports last year Milwaukee used 44,000 tons of salt and spent about $6.5 million on snow and ice management — in a year that saw only 28 inches of snow. The year before, the city spent more than $10 million.

The pilot cheese brine program, which began this month, will cost Milwaukee about $6,500. Most of the expense is for transporting and storing brine.

In other ways to reuse waste, Starbucks, Nestle and the University of Cincinnati are among the organizations turning used coffee grounds into bioplastics, laundry detergents and biodiesel, and a team of scientists with the Agricultural Research Service has found a way to blend woody cotton waste with fungi to grow custom packaging material.

Photo Credit: snowy winter road via Shutterstock

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3 thoughts on “Wisconsin Fights Icy Roads with Cheese Brine Waste

  1. Well, yes, this is a slight environmental improvement, but the salt in the cheese brine will ultimately make its way into surface waters, just as the salt does. Road salt is changing the salinity of lakes in rivers–using less and a recoverable system would be best. With respect to the cheese brine, re-use in the cheese process, would be ideal in terms of reducing waste, costs and pollution.

  2. Though this may be an improvement on salt, my concern is that if the cheese is not organic, all of the antibiotics the dairy industry uses on cows will wind up in our waterways. ~ A Wisconsin Native

  3. Hi, The environemntal impact of deicing products in cold climets is a real problem. But I have the impression that “recycling” cheese effluents is more a financial apsect than an environmental, becaus teh organic load of the cheese effluent is very high (BOD 32’000, COD 70’000). So we transfer a salinity problem of surface waters to an organic one. What is worse ? I am intersested to know the envrionemtal impact study of this type of recycling. Cheese effluents contanin valuable products. For exampel ist possible to produce fuel ethanol. What do you mean ? Sincerely yours. Pierre

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