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The environmental-friendly alternative to road salt: Grit or granules

Winter – Photo: R. Moers

In order to combat the risk of slipping over on snow and ice, property owner in Germany are always obliged to clear and grit the pavements and drives in winter. As an alternative to de-icing materials such as salt there are a host of appropriate, more eco-friendly gritting materials on sale.

Sodium chloride is mainly used as road salt. In addition to this however calcium and magnesium chloride or other salts are used in some products. The amount of road salt applied to the transport routes annually in Germany depends strongly on the weather conditions. Over the past ten years it was around 1.5 million tonnes on average. In many communities however the private use of road salt is explicitly forbidden and can indeed even be punished with a fine. – It is only allowed to be used sparingly in the case of stubborn icing and hazardous zones such as stairways for instance.

The reason: Common salt has a substantial impact on the environment. Part of it finds its way into streams or rivers in the melted water via the sewer system. The rest seeps directly into the ground. Here the salt can become concentrated over many years and damage the vegetation. The excessive salt content makes it difficult for the plants to absorb nutrients and water. Long-term this undersupply leads to an increased susceptibility to disease. Important soil-dwelling organisms such as mushrooms are affected by the salt too. The salt can additionally cause animals’ paws to become inflamed. But it also corrodes the materials of vehicles and buildings made of concrete and bricks.

Glatteisbremse – Photo: gpi GmbH & Co. KG

The Environmental Office recommends using other gritting materials as an alternative to salt. These don’t melt the ice, but instead reduce the risk of slipping by making the slippy surface rough and thus increasing the grip. They primarily comprise of broken stones (grit) or limestone granules. As long as the content of heavy metals is low, using grit hardly leads to any impact on water, the ground or vegetation. Ín order to achieve a sufficient effect, a high density of the gritting material should however to scattered. 100 grammes per square metre is recommended. At the end of the winter it can simply be swept up and disposed of. Limestone granules can even be used to improve the soil in the garden.


The „Blauer Engel“ (Blue Angel) environmental seal is awarded for eco-friendly salt-free gritting materials in Germany.

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