Wintery ice puts people at risk and roads become slippery for cars. Water will often melt and re-harden overnight, making conditions even worse. When we talk about road grit, we’re talking about the method of spreading salt over snow and ice, that makes roads, pavements and car parks safe for cars and pedestrians. Winter risk management and winter gritting is a part of seasonal grounds maintenance for any business, with clear economic benefit.
As climate change worsens, every industry seeks to make improvements on the environmental impact they are having. The gritting industry is no difference. There are several ways that winter gritting and snow clearance can be made better for the environment. The Grounds Care Group are committed to reducing our carbon footprint at every available opportunity and extend that to our gritting branch.
To read more about our eco credentials click here.
Gritting roads and business sites is a necessity for humans to continue going about their lives when weather conditions worsen. Slips, trips and falls, can be a real crisis, not only for those affected by injury, but for business overall, who ultimately take responsibility.
Anxious to mitigate such threats, businesses can get quite ‘gung ho’ about when icy roads and pavements on and around site are treated. Gritting machines are often seen spraying salt over the roads in anticipation of bad weather. Often far too much salt is laid down in the misguided belief that adding more means better. Quite the opposite, not only is pre-empting and over gritting not as effective, it carries more environmental risks too.
Black ice is a particular menace, being almost impossible to see. Once roads or pavements are frozen, a smooth thin layer of water will often cover over the surface. Black ice is extremely dangerous because it can be so slippery and almost invisible. It is entirely possible to take preventative measures ahead of black ice forming using brine.
It’s also true to say that applying brine, or grit sooner rather than later is a productive management technique, as we know, too late and ice is already present. However, while rock salt remains on the roads, the surrounding environment is under attack, as are the surface of the roads themselves.
Working with a company that knows the exact time to interject and apply brine or grit is key to reducing your impact on the environment. With weather conditions under constant scrutiny, UK Gritting is able to balance the need to grit with the environmental impact.
Despite being called ‘grit’, rock salt is the main ingredient used in winter gritting. Sand and anti-caking agents are added to the mix on occasion too in very bad weather. Grounds Care Group Gritting uses white de-icing salt, as it is salt in its purest form and contains nearly 100% sodium chloride. That means it dissolves quickly and efficiently and there is no risk of drains being blocked. It also looks cleaner and is easier to spread.
Extracting salt is a fairly easy process and can be done by evaporating seawater, or mining. Both are in plentiful supply, with sodium listed as the world’s 6th most abundant element with a 500 year supply in the UK alone. Salt sourced from seawater extraction is sustainable.
The Salt Association website says of salt extraction impact on the environment:
“Evaporated salt is manufactured by evaporating the water from brine, under vacuum. This entails the use of heat energy, with implications for CO2 emissions. The vacuum process maximises energy efficiency that is closely monitored for both commercial and environmental reasons. The steam used for the evaporation process is generated in accordance with IPPC regulations and, wherever possible, is reused within the manufacturing process.”
Additionally, the Salt Association highlights that
“Sodium chloride is not classified as dangerous to the environment and the manufacture of salt does not require registration under the Environmental Protection Act Integrated Pollution and Control Regulations.”
A unique chemical reaction within the sodium chloride in the salt enables it to break down molecules within the ice, which lowers its temperature. Through this reduction in core temperature, it is able to literally melt the ice away, right down to temperatures of -26.6C
Using salt is the number one way to make surfaces safe again and expert gritters understand the importance of timing. Lay too soon or on a dry road and it could be blown away, lay too late and it’s ineffective because the surface is already frozen and you’ve failed to prevent the dangers.
Salt alone doesn’t stop snow from turning to ice on a surface, which is where brine comes into play. To prevent ice from forming in the first place, Grounds Care Group Gritting apply brine, which is an alternative to salt. Brine is a solution of salt and water, which basically acts as a barrier between the pavement or road surface and snow, thus stopping the ice from the snow bonding to the pavement. Because it is diluted, less salt is needed, making it the more environmentally friendly option.
Both salt and brine have benefits, and Grounds Care Group Gritting tailors solutions for each site we work on. Once a winter risk survey is carried out, we put together the best, most environmentally friendly plan of action.
Sounds great right? So what’s the problem?
One of the few problems with gritting salt is how corrosive it can be. Any porous material absorbs the sodium chloride which destabilises its molecular structure. This ultimately affects the condition of the surface and road wear and tear is worsened with heavy traffic use.
Tarmac roads, concrete driveways and pavements that are over-treated with salt, can be susceptible to disintegration, cracks and fissures. These irregularities can potentially damage tyres via puncture, as well as begin to erode them.
Another unpleasant feature of road grit salt is that sodium chloride is quite toxic and causes dry burns when handled. Whilst humans must wear appropriate safety gear when gritting roads and surfaces, animals unfortunately don’t have that luxury. If consumed or in some cases even touched by wildlife, lawns or plants, gritting salt can be fatal. the application must be done carefully by experienced personnel.
From an environmental standpoint, salt also impacts soil and plants. Excess salt is known to interfere with the nitrogen cycle of a plant, roots are damaged through salt absorption rather than minerals. This causes problems with regrowth.
Rock salt will remain wherever it’s put for several days, partially transferred to the wider area via traffic and underfoot. Often, rain will end up dissolving the salt content, but where does it go after that?
Usually, salt water simply drains into the soil, which affects biodiversity as the insects and creatures foraging the plants have impaired food source.
Salted water can also seep into our lakes, waterways and rivers, which affect all ecosystems relying upon those water sources. Cases of sickly fish, amphibians with severe burns and disturbed local wildlife thanks to deteriorating plant life they feed on.
To stop gritting would remove obvious advantages of improved safety and enabling daily life to function by keeping roads clear. But road gritting also has another key benefit for the environment as well as for people, albeit still human caused.
Should roads be more hazardous, bringing traffic to a standstill, it stands to reason that fuel consumption would increase dramatically. This of course has another impact on our environment; Air pollution, which is already prematurely killing over 40,000 people every year.
Weather forecasting technology is improving all the time and this enables gritting companies to know exactly when to lay grit each year as the cold season kicks in. In turn, this means salt dosing is more accurate. Less salt wasted and less salt harming the environment.
UK Gritting is the first company to have a bespoke report and schedule system, allowing us to be as efficient as possible. Our customers get live reporting literally by the minute, which gives peace of mind and cost control. All information on every job is available at the touch of a button.
Our winter gritting services include single gritting and multi-site gritting to cater for your specific needs. We also provide salt supplies and grit bins for your premises as part of our winter risk management package.
Gritting vehicles also require fuel to run and our contractors plan routes ahead of time to make sure the journey to the gritting job is as short as possible.
Making sure they are fit for purpose, with salt dispensers that evenly distribute grit across the roads is another way to reduce salt waste.
Properly trained, experienced gritters who use appropriate measures of salt and ensure spreaders are correctly set to spread salt across the roads, also counts.
News from the British government stated that new petrol and diesel car sales will be banned by 2030. That means electric vehicles will be standardised which will include gritting vehicles. Automated dispensing and organic waste matter as grit, are all opportunities to hit carbon neutral future for the gritting industry.
Minimising salt flow into natural waterways is key to making sure gritting doesn’t impact on surrounding biodiversity such as hedgerows, gardens, fields and riverbanks. Keeping drainage systems maintained and having better designed overflow systems is also key.
Grounds Care Group UK Grittinguses only salt extracted from the ocean, which means we’re already using the most environmentally friendly option. Marine salt also needs the lowest quantity to perform as a de-icer which reduces waste.
We’re also using the best possible weather forecasting technology to give us the advance warnings on all winter weather conditions.
And this ensures that we only need to apply the correct amount of salt for the weather conditions, to ensure we don’t over apply salt/de-ice
Finally, our approach to choosing the best solution between brine and gritting. Using brine wherever possible, means we’re actively making sure we use the more eco-friendly option.
As industry leaders in gritting sustainability, we are also currently investigating beet juice! Advantages to beet juice are:
● It’s less toxic than using salt and does less harm to the surrounding environment
● Has an even lower freezing point than salt for water – able to dissolve ice at temperatures as low as -20 degrees
● Has a lower ‘bounce’ rate on roads, meaning when it’s dropped on the roads, it stays put and doesn’t bounce off. That means you need less of it, making it less impactful
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