Sand : A strategic resource in search of recognition

Sand: A strategic resource in search of recognition

Long thought to be unlimited, sand resources are disappearing as global demand grows. What can be done to move from impulsive extraction to more sustainable exploitation? Here is a look at a complex situation that we have not yet fully grasped.

Sand most often evokes the beach, holidays, and childhood games, but also the calm we feel when facing the desert. And yet, sand is more present in our daily lives then we think. Indeed, it is the most consumed resource on the planet after water. And it has multiple uses.

A product that is both known and unknown

Did you know that it takes 200 tonnes of sand to build a villa, much of which is transformed into concrete? And that about 30,000 tonnes are needed to build one kilometre of road? Silica, the principal component of sand, is also used in the manufacture of glass and electronic components found in computers, tablets, smartphones, and solar panels. It is also used in agro-industry, cosmetics, and in aircraft, since this chemical compound is used in the plastic used in jet engines, paint, and aircraft tyres. But the story doesn’t end there, as sand is also used in the composition of wine, paper, and toothpaste. This is why almost 50 billion tonnes of sand are extracted every year, with an estimated value of 70 billion dollars.

The prospect of a shortage

For a long time, sand has been on the fringes of our commercial thinking. However, the current shortage is a reality check. Many quarries are closing. The reason for this is the increasing number of property and road projects, particularly in countries that are seeking growth and where it is not always easy to extract this commodity. This situation has led to a tendency to source the material from beaches but also in the sea, as close to the coast as possible, with the disastrous consequences with which we are familiar.

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