We have forgotten that even grains of sand are not infinite

25. 2. 2020

Sand is the most used raw material after water. It is used everywhere – to build houses, roads, to produce glass or in cosmetics. A UN report warns of growing environmental problems caused by sand extraction and calls for an international framework for its use. 

Do you buy consumables in glass jars and bottles rather than in plastic? 

The average beer bottle can be reused ten times and then must be replaced. But is there going to be enough sand to make a new one? Worldwide 40 to 50 billion tons of sand is extracted every year. It will be 60 billion tons in 2030. As the population grows and the standard of living increases, new buildings and infrastructure must be constructed. The biggest importer of sand is Singapore. 

This city-state has increased its area by 20 % over the past 40 years to meet population growth – 24 Indonesian islands disappeared due to construction. Sand extraction from river beds and banks affects water regulation. Lowering of water aquifers causes exacerbating drought occurrence and severity, while the instability of river banks leads to increased flood frequency and intensity. Pollution and changes in pH levels caused by sand extraction negatively affect biodiversity. This adds to effects of coastal and marine extraction, which may locally lead to long-term erosion impacts. China and India lead in impacts of sand extraction. 

Other developing countries of Southeast Asia and Africa exhibit similar trends. The solutions of the UN are built on avoiding unnecessary natural sand consumption in construction by using new technologies and recycled materials. At the same time, reducing sand extraction impacts should be reached. However, in most countries the proper legislation is completely missing. 

Read more HERE.