Next Generation Science Standards:
Molly Connell is a marketing specialist for TradeMachines, a German tool and machine supply company focusing on recycling manufacturing equipment.
Sand is a key ingredient of many everyday objects, used not only to produce glass but as a raw material in the construction industry as well. It’s the second most extracted resource after water, with industries using about 40 billion tons a year. And there is growing concern that we are starting to run out.
While the approximately 120,000,000 billion tons of sand on Earth seems like an ample supply, not all sand is created equal and not all types of sand are suitable for all purposes. Marine sand grains have an angular structure, making a perfect basis for concrete. However, grains of sand found in deserts are too round, making them unsuitable for construction. Since we are limited in our sources for sand, our annual extraction seems much less sustainable, so much so that the world is starting to face a crisis. The excessive mining of marine sand has already caused beaches worldwide to retreat. The crisis has even opened up a black market for sand. If this trend continues, by 2100 there will be no more beaches left. To see the whole picture and understand how severe the situation is, take a look at the following infographic.