India could combat the rising cost of sand by replacing up to 10% of the sand in concrete with recycled plastic, according to research by John Orr from Cambridge University. “From a cost perspective, using the plastic can be cheaper, broadly speaking, especially as sand goes up in price as it becomes more scarce,” Orr says.
Does the world have a shortage of sand? At first, that might sound like a peculiar question.After all, sand covers vast expanses of beaches and deserts across the world.
Yet the raw material is used in giant quantities in construction and manufacturing. In the building sector alone, 40-50bn tonnes of the stuff is used around the world annually.This is led by the production of concrete, which is typically made up of about 25% sand.
The problem when it comes to supply is that most desert or beach sand is unsuitable – desert sand is too smooth, and beach sand has too much salt in it.This means that sand is typically dredged from rivers, and due to the environmental damage this causes a number of countries have introduced bans in recent years – including India, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The knock-on impact has been supply issues in nations undergoing construction booms such as China and India, which have the largest and second-largest construction sectors.Shortfalls of sand in India continue to fuel a big increase in illegal sand mining, controlled by criminal gangs, known as “sand mafias”, These groups have been linked to dozens of murders, including the 2015 killing of investigative journalist Jagendra Singh.