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Free cups a reminder to use road salt responsibly

The City of Greater Sudbury has begun issuing free plastic cups intended to help instruct residents on the ‘responsible’ amount of salt to apply to surfaces to prevent slips during the winter months

Free plastic cups are being handed out at Greater Sudbury Public Library branches in an effort to educate the public on what an appropriate amount of road salt looks like.

Although the cups are new, city climate change co-ordinator Jennifer Babin-Fenske told it’s part of a much broader effort to mitigate the environmental impacts of salt.

With climate change resulting in more freeze/thaw events during the winter months, she said, “we want to make sure people are aware of how to manage icy conditions.”

Approximately 2,000 cups have been produced to be handed out at libraries and distributed through local groups. Printed on each 12-ounce cup is a note that it can contain enough salt to cover 10 sidewalk squares, or 500 square feet. It also clarifies that rock salt is less effective in temperatures colder than -12 C.

“Use salt sparingly on shovelled grounds to protect our lakes, rivers and drinking water,” the cups caution.

Between this public education campaign, online resources, offering businesses 50 per cent off the cost of Smart About Salt certification and other related efforts, Babin-Fenske said the city has striven to instill the importance of “responsible” road salt use.

It’s about “responsible” use, she clarified, because salt is sometimes necessary to help prevent winter slip-related incidents involving pedestrians and vehicles.

“If you overuse it, there are a lot of negative outcomes,” she said, pointing to erosion, damage to aquatic ecosystems, increased sodium and chloride in drinking water and irritation and damage to pets and wildlife.

To view a video of Babin-Fenske talking about the city’s wither salt management approach during an Earth Care Minute, click here. Additional information regarding the city’s approach to road salt can be found by clicking here.

The city strives to limit the use of road salt during the winter months, and only applies it to approximately 25 per cent of city roads, the rest of which are strictly plowed and sanded.

Although there are numerous alternatives to sodium chloride (road salt) for road de-icing, a recent city report noted, “there are no cost-effective alternatives to salt.”

The City of Greater Sudbury has also created a guide for business owners/managers regarding how to limit the use of salt. In it, they make the following recommendations: 

  • Stop snow from driving onto paved areas with landscaping or snow fences
  • Clean up spilled and excess salt to save for a future time
  • Use salt alternatives, such as pickled sand (sand soaked in a brine, with limited salt)
  • Promote winter safety with signs cautioning people of slippery areas
  • Repair pavement to prevent pooling water
  • Close unused areas instead of salting
  • Prevent ice from forming by fixing leaky eaves and keeping storm drains clear

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for