Concrete Companies Are Using Sustainable Alternative Materials to Combat the Global Sand Shortage
The rapid development of urban centres around the world has led to booming construction over the years. Most construction relies heavily on concrete (the most widely used construction material globally) and concrete requires sand for production. Unfortunately, booming construction has resulted in a global sand shortage. Environments and ecosystems are destroyed when sand resources are depleted. In an attempt to reduce the environmental harm of using the dwindling sand resources, concrete companies are looking for alternatives to using sand in concrete production, as well as recycling to reuse sand-based materials.
Global Sand Shortage
The world uses an estimated 44 billion tonnes of sand and gravel annually. Typically, sand is used for:
- Land reclamation,
- Roadways, and
- Within the concrete industry.
But what about the sand found in deserts? While it’s plentiful, desert sand is too fine for construction use. For the most part, riverbanks and quarries are primary sources for sand. But as demand grows, more companies are taking to marine and beach sand, sometimes illegally.
Over-mining sand has created a sand shortage, and has had a negative impact on the environment and ecosystems where this mining occurs.
Concrete companies are recycling materials to help reduce the impact of the sand shortage and demand. Common recyclable materials include concrete, quarry dust, and glass bottles. As glass is a sand product, recycling all glass, whenever possible, is vital.
Concrete companies have turned to plastic waste as an alternative to sand during the shortage. India relies on concrete construction to meet the demands of their rapid urban development. Plastic waste, instead of piling up in Indian landfills, takes on a new role as an ingredient in modern concrete.
To combat both the sand shortage and to address the plastic waste problem, University of Bath academics partnered with researchers from India to create a concrete mix that replaces more than 10 percent of sand use with shredded plastic waste.
Part of the research examines the effects of using plastic in concrete, including the concrete’s durability, strength, thermal properties, and fire resistance. Future generations of engineering students will be trained in concrete construction using plastic waste.
Recycling waste that would otherwise end up in landfills (including cement, glass bottles, and plastics) is extremely beneficial to our environment. Fewer resources are used creating these products, and as a result, the risk to ecosystem damage and destruction is much lower. It is important for concrete companies and global citizens alike to keep recycling and looking for alternatives to using dwindling resources such as sand.