In Wisconsin, cheese is a local treasure. Residents embrace cheese-shaped hats for the Green Bay Packers and the state made over 2 billion pounds of cheese in 2013. Time and again, many of these cheese suppliers will have to haul hundreds of pounds of cheese brine, which is a salt-water mixture with leftover dairy, to waste management plants.
Now, the state’s capital is looking to use this material to keep roads clear of ice and snow during the winter months, the New York Times reported. Wisconsin residents have tried to think of alternative ways to de-ice roads without hurting its ecosystem and efforts have failed. These methods, including spreading the roads with sugar beet juice and molasses, have turned out to be too much of a mess.
Once local officials heard of Emil Norby’s story about using cheese brine in Polk County, they were interested, and also concerned about the repercussions of doing so. Would it attract animals? Would it cause a lingering stench on the streets? After Norby said that Polk County saves $40,000 per year on rock salt supplies, it seemed like an idea worth looking into.
“We’re just trying to make every possible use of cheese,” Tony Zielinski, member of a municipal assembly from the Bay View district, told the Times. “If this takes off, if this proves to be a success here, I’m sure that it will be used in cities all over the country.”
Savings on repurposing the cheese brine doesn’t stop there. Cheese companies like F & A Dairy Products donate the leftover liquid to Polk County and it saves the business at least $20,000 per year on hauling costs.
This may sound like an unorthodox green recycling solution, but Wisconsin experiences extremely harsh winter months. To clear 28 inches of total snow in 2013, Milwaukee spent $6.5 million on 44,000 tons of rock salt. Road management workers could remove eight gallons of rock salt per ton if they substituted it with cheese brine.
“Added to rock salt, it produces a mixture that sticks to roads better, freezes at a lower temperature and saves money,” Times contributor Steven Yaccino wrote.
In terms of the smell, residents can only smell it if they bring their noses really close to the pavement. Reports on the impact of cheese brine is expected to be announced later on this year.
Wisconsin’s solution to reuse local resources to alleviate the burdens of a statewide problem could pave the way for similar eco-friendly initiatives. Nonetheless, business owners do not have to take such major steps to do their own part to reduce waste.
Rather, entrepreneurs can look at smaller scale alternatives like utilizing quality office furniture. These lightly used commercial pieces can serve as great additions to a company’s office, costing a fraction of the cost of brand new products. Because they are readily available, welcoming them into your business’ space prevents them from being thrown out in a landfill. Because they are readily available, you can quickly welcome then into your business’ space and start right away preventing them from being thrown out in a landfill.