Canada has miles and miles of pristine sandy beaches. Nothing fills our hearts more after a long, cold Saskatchewan winter than the thoughts of warm, summer rays and sand between our toes. Now imagine if all the beaches became bare. What would happen if we ran out of beach sand?
It’s true. To date, scientists have estimated that approximately two-thirds of the world’s coastal beaches are vanishing. Beach sand is important to our environment because it protects marine habitat and waterfront residential communities. It also aids our aquatic creatures in digestion and protection from predators. Why is this happening? Over-exploitation. Sand is an inexpensive, alternative material that is sought after by construction companies, pharmaceutical corporations, and glass manufacturers. It is used as a building block to create roads, medical pills, and bottles or jars (Villioth, 2014).
To keep up with demand, sand is being extracted at an exponential rate under unconstrained mining practices; creating shortages around the world. This is a major problem because sand is not an infinite natural resource. On average it takes hundreds to millions of years for rocks, shells, coral, and organic materials to weather down to form our sand. There are approximately 7 quintillion grains of sand on our planet, however, a majority of this sand is found in deserts. Desert sand differs from beach sand as it is a homogenous material of symmetrical sized grains and is usually rounded from blowing winds. Whereas beach sand is a heterogeneous mixture of irregularly sized grains and usually has rough edges (NIWA, 2016).
How can you help our keep sand on our beaches? It may be as simple as going to the fridge and cracking open an ice-cold beverage from a glass bottle. Once you are done with that bottle, you can recycle it, however maybe not in the conventional way most facilities currently do. As recycling technologies advance around the world, options now exist to turn the recycled food-grade glass into sand through glass implosion. Glass implosion uses high-frequency sound waves to explode the bottles and jars. Then using air and screens, the labels and caps are removed; creating an end product of clean recycled glass sand. By using recycled glass sand instead of beach sand we can stop destroying our beaches while continuing to supply the demand. Glass sand can be made into roads, pool filtration systems, adhesive and more. So quench your thirst, while saving our valuable beaches!