The biggest consumer of sand is the construction industry, using it for asphalt, concrete, and bricks. It takes about 400,000 pounds of sand to build a house; 60,000 tons for one mile of highway; and 12 million tons for a nuclear power plant.
However, we're running short of this mostly overlooked natural resource.
The German international broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), has posted a fascinating story on the sand business, titled Could We Run Out Of Sand?
Sand awareness is not at the top of the public's environmental list of endangered resources, but more sand and gravel are mined than any other material according to an indepth report by the United Nations Global Alert Service. "Sand is a fossil resource," said researcher Kiran Pereira, who founded sandstories.org to raise awareness of the issue. "It takes millions of years to form — but a mine can be exhausted in decades," she pointed out.
Like anything that has a finite supply, sand market cost is increasing. This means that besides supply/demand economics attached to the huge quantities of sand being used - Singapore is the world's largest importer - criminal gangs are stealing sand in countries ranging from Jamaica to Nigeria. India even has a sand mafia, known for its ruthlessness.
The solution to the pending sand shortage? Conservation and lessening our reliance on concrete is one idea cited by the report. A couple of entrepreneurs are experimenting with desert sand, which isn't gritty enough for construction applications.