Sand, a Surprisingly Limited Resource

Demand for the basic raw material for glass and concrete is prompting illegal mining that’s leaving beaches and riverbeds bare.

After water and air, sand is the next most-consumed natural resource in the world, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Though a visit to the beach may make this material appear abundant, this resource—used to manufacture nearly everything from plastics to microchips—is actually under serious stress worldwide, and the building industry is a main perpetrator.

The extent of the crisis is largely invisible, especially to a U.S. public used to beach vacations on glistening white sand. But, those endless shores and tall dunes you might have enjoyed in New Jersey or Miami were likely constructed out of sand trucked in from inland mines or dredged from the ocean floor just in time for summer. The reality is that 75%–90% of the world’s natural sand beaches are vanishing, including many of those on U.S. coastlines.

Published December 5, 2016

Pearson, C. (2016, December 5). Sand, a Surprisingly Limited Resource . Retrieved from