Iowa To Use Sugar Beet Juice On Icy Sidewalks

The University of Iowa will use this product, called ProMelt, in its ice and snow removal efforts this winter. The product is a mixture of salt and a by-product of sugar beet processing. (Photo from University of Iowa)

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By Richard Pratt

IOWA CITY, Iowa - University of Iowa landscape services crews will have a new weapon in the battle against icy walkways, steps and building entrances this winter: sugar beet juice. The crews will use ProMelt, an eco-friendly de-icer that combines salt with a byproduct from sugar beet processing.

It’s anticipated the product will provide better anti-icing and de-icing performance than rock salt alone, reducing the number of applications and quantity needed. Scott Gritsch, manager with UI Facilities Management Landscape Services, anticipates using 30 percent less product this season to keep the walkways clear and safe.

“Our goal is to clear the snow early and down to the pavement so there isn’t any re-freeze,” Gritsch said. “This new product works at a lower effective temperature than salt and will begin to work quicker, too.”

The product has a slightly tacky texture so there’s no need to mix it with sand, Gritsch said. This will decrease the amount of dirt tracked into buildings, reducing damage to tiles and carpets and lowering the amount of clean-up the UI custodial team has to deal with.

UI officials are considering this first season a trial year for the product. In addition to gauging its effectiveness on snow and ice, Gritsch hopes to see reduced corrosion of concrete and damage to vegetation. The reduced environmental impact of the naturally derived material that is manufactured in Waterloo fits well with the university’s commitment to sustainability, officials said.

“Water runoff from snowmelt eventually ends up in our storm drains and natural waterways, taking along with it any sand, salt and other materials it may have picked up along the way,” said Liz Christiansen, director of the UI Office of Sustainability. “Facilities Management continues to investigate new products like ProMelt that are environmentally and fiscally responsible.”

Rock salt and sand will still be used on roadways and on some heavily traveled walkways, and weather conditions will determine the type and blend of products used by the crews.

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