Why is sand in short supply? | The Economist #Trend #Sand

The world uses 40 billion tonnes of sand each year to build cities and towns, but global reserves are running low. We find out why.

Sand is crucial for construction. Much of the global economy relies on it. We use 40 billion tonnes of it each year to build our cities and towns. But global reserves are running low.

Industrial sand and gravel are the world’s most extracted materials. They are essential for the production of cement, concrete and asphalt. Global demand for sand has almost doubled since 2004.

And as the world becomes more populated and urbanised, demand will continue to rise. 70% of the world’s annual supply of sand goes to Asia.

China used more cement between 2011 and 2013 than America did during the entire 20th century. However, the biggest importers are countries covered in sand – the Gulf States.

Sand from the Gulf region is too fine for use in construction.
The Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai was built using imported Australian sand.

Sand is produced from the weathering of rocks, corals and shells. Natural reserves took millions of years to build up. And now they are being depleted more quickly than they can be replenished.

But 40 billion tones are needed globally each year. Reserves are being depleted quicker than they can be replenished.

Extracting sand takes its toll on the environment. Dredging rivers and seas for sand destroys natural habitats, pollutes waterways, and affects local fishing and farming industries.

And our insatiable demand is set to rise. Global construction is forecast to grow 3.9% each year until 2030.

When current reserves are depleted, there will still be plenty of sand left in the world. But extracting it will be more difficult, more expensive, and more damaging to the environment.

In the future we might need to find a new material to build our concrete jungles.

Daily Watch: mind-stretching short films throughout the working week.


Category: Trends
About The Author
- Peter Keates, founder & CEO Onopia and President Placesquare SAS, helps companies to improve their leadership with an innovative business model aligned with the strategy.