We are running out of sand


Cameron Rhode

The price for sand can range from $5-$30. About 2-10 times more from what it was 50 years ago.

Cameron Rhode, Business Manager

Our lives as we know them are screwed. Economic development through the 20th century has caused a massive shortage of sand.

Shortage of sand? Yes. That stuff that is all over near water is running out. Everything in a city – concrete, cement and glass – is made from sand. In 2015, the U.S. produced approximately 885 metric tons of sand and gravel for construction. Sand like this is getting ‘locked’ up every day due to these means of construction. ‘Locked up’ sand is when concrete is made, leaving sand sitting in there for years. 

I know what you’re thinking: “Why don’t we use the extremely large amounts of sand in deserts?” The problem with desert sand is that it is unusable; this is because the sand is weathered by the wind rather than water. The best sand is the kind of sand that is at the bottom of rivers and lakes, the kinds that are jagged and sharp. These sharp pieces of sand are harder to come by, which often lead to massive extractions of it. 

According to the New York Times, “Extracting sand is an estimated $70 billion dollar industry.” The demand for sand is so high that there are illegal trades of sand going on all over the world. 

This increased use of sand comes with unforeseen consequences; ‘sand mafias’ have been sprouting up all over the world in less developed regions. ‘Sand mafias’ are exactly what you think: organized crime surrounding the selling and gathering of sand. These sand mafias have been known to steal whole rivers and riverbeds in a single night. An article from Global News also has said: “In some extreme cases, the illegal mining of sand has changed international boundaries, such as the disappearance of sand islands in Indonesia.” China has reversely been adding new islands to their country for the last few years. China alone is one of the largest consumers of sand in the world. China, in two years alone (2011-2013), has used as much sand and cement as the U.S. in the entire 20th century.

At the current state, there seems to be for these ‘sand mafias’. The only real solution that we have is to find a different way to make either sand or concrete. If we don’t find a new way to make concrete, we will have to limit the amount of city expansion and the amount of concrete we use for cities.