Known as the cheese capital of the United States, Wisconsin paving its icy roads with cheese brine. While it may seem like a marketing ploy to promote American cheddar, instead Milwaukee began a pilot program last December which involves spraying the salty byproduct of cheese manufacturing onto its roads as a way of saving the state money and easing pollution.
As it turns out, the cheesy solution works quite well. Traditional rock salt is added to the whey water, and the resulting mixture adheres well to the road while actually freezing at a lower temperature than regular salt brine. Provolone and mozzarella apparently work best.
Milwaukee gets on average 50 inches of snow each winter and spends on average $10 million each year to clear the roads and keep citizens safe. With the new pilot program, the state aims to substitute the 44,000 tons of salt it uses each year with salty cheese brine that may achieve the same effect. Not only will this save money, but also reduce ground water contamination that can come from rock salt run off.
Beyond Milwaukee, another part of Polk County in northern Wisconsin started using the cheese brine in 2009. That year, over 40,000 gallons spread across highways helped save $40,000 in rock salt expenses. Meanwhile, states around the nation been experimenting with other salt alternatives, like molasses from beet juice and spent brewery grain.
Of course, paving the roads with cheese raises some concerns about odors and a potential rodent problem. So far, however, the brine seems to be fairly benign, and recycling the cheese water is saving at least one manufacturer the $20,000 a year it normally spends to cart the brine to a waste treatment plant.