Sand and gravel
Sand and gravel are created from the breaking down of rocks, through weather, erosion, collision etc. There are different kinds of these materials, some more suited to human purposes than others. Apart from water and air, sand is the most consumed resource in the world. (ref) In the garden, it is key to think of sand, as it can be used to lay fake lawns, create permeable grounds for rainwater, secure paving stones and will be found in concrete used in a garden.
- Sand is harvested from beaches and water beds, this sand is useable, desert sand is not. (ref)
- In this process, habitats are destroyed and disturbed. (ref)
- Water systems can be altered, changing flows or expanding, or creating dead ends which cause issues for wildlife during mining. (ref)
- More sand floating in the water caused by mining can disrupt animals and also vegetation as less light can reach these organisms. (ref)
- Other environments can be destroyed in order to access the resource. (ref)
- Sand is unsustainable, more sand is extracted than naturally replenished. (ref)
- A lot of sand is extracted illegally. (ref) Even in the UK, an example being Lough Neagh. Under EU law, planning permission (a precautionary approach, as its also known) is needed before harvesting to assess potential damage, however this was not provided. (ref)
- There is no international convention regulating mining, use and trade, (ref) making it hard to trust sourcing.
- Gravel is mined much like sand, extracted and sucked up, it disrupts habitats. (ref)
- It is possible to obtain recycled sand, made from glass bottles. (ref)
- Sand can be used to create permeable ground, allowing water and other organism to reach the soil underneath and allowing it to continue to live. It also allows groundwater to be replenished. (ref)
- Sand is an aesthetically pleasing choice. (ref)
- In the UK, Germany and France, and other countries, in-stream sand and gravel mining is illegal. (ref)
- Europe is self-sufficient in terms of natural minerals, not metals, however. (ref)
- Sand can be harvested from quarries, which can be a lot more environmentally friendly than water bed mining.
Sand and Gravel Summary
There is no denying that there is sand crisis, the demand for sand (and gravel) in concrete and other purposes has meant that harvesting of it is unsustainable, and in this process, the environment is damaged and altered in devastating ways. Some countries do have measures in place to reduce sand mining and its impacts, such as the UK, German etc. but regardless of this, illegal sand mining continues, even in the UK. This makes it hard to trust the source of sand and gravel. Due to its vital contribution to concrete, it can be advised to reduce Concrete usage, therefore reducing sand consumption and its environmental impact. This can be achieved by minimising hard landscaping and materials like barkchips are a good alternate.