Lack of sand

Is the planet running out of sand?

Author: Mario Schmidtgen
Date: 15.08.2019

The building materials industry is gradually running out of concrete. The reason for this is the shortage of sand, which is causing unrest not only nationwide but also worldwide.

As one of the most important building materials of our time, sand has become indispensable. The building industry, in particular, is dependent on this raw material because, according to ETH Zurich, the “sand is the megastar of our industrial and electronic age”. Annual consumption is estimated at 50 billion tonnes. However, it is known that the planet will soon run out of this resource. Especially since ubiquitous building materials such as glass and concrete are particularly relevant today, it is even more threatening that these materials are extracted from the ever decreasing amount of sand.

The history of concrete dates back to antiquity, when mortar mixtures were used in Turkey 10 000 years ago. However, it was not until the 20th century that concrete became the stone of desire. The hope of the building industry lies in the attempts of the NASA, which could already compress the so-called “moon concrete” with carbon and epoxy resin. The building industry particularly likes the fact that this “moon concrete” would be significantly cheaper and more durable than conventional concrete. However, this possibility is not yet feasible due to the enormous distance.

Above all, the uncontrollable construction boom has led to a clear decline in resources. Critics claim, however, that climate change must result in enough available sand. However, this desert sand, which is heavily polluted by wind and weather, is not suitable for concrete due to its grain size. There are already studies on how this sand could be processed so that it could be used, but the methods used are not particularly economical. Thus the mystery remains unsolved from too little usable sand up to bulk of not usable sand.