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New icy road brine mixtures include beets, cheese, potato

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A dash of salt is not all the recipe calls for anymore when it comes to brewing up brines for the nation's icy roads, the Associated Press reports.

Also on the ingredient list: molasses, potato juice, beets – and in Wisconsin, naturally, cheese.

Local officials in cold-weather states nationwide are always searching for cheaper and more environmentally friendly ways to keep rock salt on the roads longer and melt ice at lower temperatures, and they have come up with a few creative alternatives, the AP notes.

“Molasses or beet juice, these materials are all very thick and they allow the liquid brine to stick to the salt without activating the salt,” a Massachusetts-based manufacturer of molasses-containing Magic Salt told the AP.

In Milwaukee, city road crews this winter are experimenting with a salt solution mixed with cheese brine, a byproduct of the 2.8 billion pounds of cheese produced in Wisconsin each year.

In North Dakota, they've been using sugar beet juice in road brine mixtures, which has helped cities like Minot cut costs, the Minot Daily News reported. The sugar beet byproduct also helps cut down on the "bounce and scatter" of salt dropped on the road, a manufacturer claims of a beet mix spread on Toronto streets.

Meanwhile, officials in Tennessee have found potato juice to be a key biodegradable, non-corrosive ingredient in road brines.

In Minnesota, many road crews keep to tried-and-true salt for melting and sand for traction, although the state in a 2012 report noted that "twenty different deicing products are currently in consideration by MnDOT, and potential benefit is offered by blends of various products." The report examined corn and beet byproducts, among others.

Some Minnesota communities, including Minnetonka, are becoming more reluctant to use sand for environmental reasons, noting that it also clogs water flows.

Cities are getting more careful about using salt, too, in part for environmental reasons. St. Louis Park officials note that they use several strategies to cut salt use, and carefully track how much gets used.

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