Sand is a foundational element of our cities, our homes, our landscapes and seascapes. How we will interact with the material in the future, however, is less certain.
Smartphone screens, wine bottles, and porcelain toilets share a surprising ingredient: sand. In fact, the ubiquitous material is the second most exploited natural resource on Earth, after water.
Most sand pours into the construction industry, which in turn pours much of it into concrete. “Sand is the most mined solid material on Earth, and we’re using more and more sand as we’re becoming more and more people,” said Mette Bendixen, a physical geographer at McGill University in Montreal.
“The use of sand is now faced with two major challenges,” said Xiaoyang Zhong, a doctoral student in environmental science at Leiden University in the Netherlands. “One is that it has caused enormous consequences in the environment,” he explained. “The second challenge is that easily usable sand resources are running out in many regions…”