Around 50 billion tons of sand and gravel are used each year, making it the second most used resource worldwide after water.
And given our dependency on it for the long-term, sand must be recognised as a strategic resource and its extraction and management needs to be rethought, according to a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
Sand and Sustainability: 10 strategic recommendations to avert a crisis has been produced by an international team of experts including Dr Ian Selby, Director of Sustainable Geoscience at the University of Plymouth.
Through his work as a geologist, Dr Selby has worked as a sand resource developer and manager for over three decades and is currently Chair of the UK Minerals Forum. He has been working on sand with UNEP’s Global Resource Information Database in Geneva (GRID-Geneva) to highlight its global importance for several years.
Through their new report, he and his co-authors believe they have provided the necessary guidance to switch to improved practices for the resource’s extraction and management.
Dr Selby said:
“Sand is the largest anthropogenic material flow in the world and we use around 50 billion tons of it every year. Sand provides us with critical economic, societal and environmental benefits, principally as a component of concrete forming our built environment, but also across a wide range of industrial applications, land reclamation and coastal defence.