The world is running out of the marine sand, and we are depleting this natural resource by over 40 billion tons on an annual basis. While this seems nearly impossible to imagine, there are several key factors to understand why our sand overuse is becoming a serious environmental issue.

Firstly, what are we using sand for? It’s actually related to construction, urbanization, and the booming housing industry. Sand is a key ingredient in creating concrete and is therefore fundamental to building and infrastructure of all types.

Our world population is continuously growing, which also means that our urban areas are increasing exponentially. Roads, housing, units, and city areas all require strong, firm foundations. Consequently, it has created a high demand for concrete and other cheap, quick-to-produce building materials that can keep up with this rapid urbanization rate.

The world is running out of the marine sand
Sand Scarcity: Research suggests that 75-90% of sandy beaches are already retreating worldwide.

To give an idea of just how much sand we are using: just 1 mile of highway requires 45,000 tons of sand. An average-sized family house requires approximately 200 tons of sand.

But given how much sand there is around the world, could we really be depleting it that quickly? However, the issue is that the construction industry doesn’t actually use desert sand, only marine sand.

So to be exact, the world is not running out of sand, it is running out of accessible marine sand that can be used for construction and buildings. Our beaches, coastlines, and riverbanks are the main source of construction sand, and even though erosion provides more sand over time – unfortunately, this resource is not renewing as fast as we are using it. Research suggests that 75-90% of the beaches are already retreating worldwide.

And it’s not just the beaches that are being affected. Marine ecosystems are being disturbed by deep sea dredgers. Industries such as agriculture will also be harmed, as sand provides a natural barrier to salt water. If salt water seeps into the soil, it makes the land less suitable for farming.

So what is the solution? For more ecological sustainability, and to prevent our sand and beaches from disappearing, there should be more research done into sustainable building materials that can be easily renewed, or developing ways to recycle used building materials to reduce waste.

Sand scarcity
Please see here for more information (including all sources) and a further visual explanation on
this environmental issue.
M. Özgür Nevres

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