A few days ago I was drawn to an environmental hazard that’s taking on unknown proportions. In fact, most people aren’t even aware of this. And everything has to do with sand extraction.
I’m not talking about any sand, but about beach sand, the one that gets into your bikini, with which kids build castles or even the one that we crunch when we eat a clam. The same sand that makes up the ocean bottom that forms many of the waves that we are accustomed to surf.
This is the same sand used to make some products without which we no longer live: glass, computer chips, solar panels and even toothpaste. But the primary purpose of sand extraction is construction. And this, unfortunately, is increasingly growing.
[Tweet “More than 40 billion tons of sand are extracted every year worldwide.”]
Sand Extraction to levels never seen
Over the past 30 years, demand for sand has increased more than 300%, with China contributing to this growth.
[Tweet “Did you know that China consumed in two years the same quantity of sand as the US has consumed in the last century?”]
The list of countries that are big sand consumers continues with Dubai using this material to build its famous artificial islands. Although it has a vast desert area, their sand isn’t suitable for construction material. Unlike the one that’s extracted from the sea.
Also, Singapore has resorted to sand to expand its territory, responding to their population growth.
[Tweet “To build the Burj Kalifa in Dubai, 45,700 tonnes of sand from the Australian beaches were used”]
An Environmental Hazard
Of course, these levels of sand extraction had to have impacts on the environment. And they aren’t few:
- Between 75% and 90% of the world’s beaches are retreating
- 24 islands in Indonesia have disappeared
- The Maldives are in danger of disappearing by 2100
- Without the natural barrier that the sand offers, salt water begins to invade the soil and damage agriculture
- Dredges used in sand extraction destroy the natural habitat of several marine species
But if we need sand, what’s the solution?
Recycle! Recycle! Recycle! Recycled glass not only serves to produce new pieces of glass, but more significant particles can be used to build concrete.
Speaking of concrete, recycling can also be used in construction, particularly in the road sector.
And let us not forget clay. The process of transforming clay into a material with the same concrete strength has recently been patented and can offer up to 20% less CO2 emissions. Win-win!
To get an idea of what this market involves, the levels of sand consumption and the environmental hazard or the dangers behind the business, I leave you with this infographic.
What did you think about the article? Did you know about this problem? How do you think we can help improve the use of our resources? Share your opinion in the comments box below.