10 Jun 2017

Global sand shortage?

From This Way Up, 12:15 pm on 10 June 2017

Sand gets everywhere – into our roads, our homes, our sports and our recreation, but is the world running out of it?

David Owen has been exploring the global business of sand – which is usually composed of quartz grains that measure between 0.0625mm and 2mm in diameter – for The New Yorker.

"Windowpanes, wineglasses, and cell-phone screens are made from melted sand. Sand is used for filtration in water-treatment facilities, septic systems, and swimming pools. Oil and gas drillers inject large quantities of hard, round sand into fracked rock formations in order to hold the cracks open, like shoving a foot in the door.

"Geologists define sand not by composition but by size, as grains between 0.0625 and two millimetres across. Just below sand on the size scale is silt; just above it is gravel. Most sand consists chiefly of quartz, the commonest form of silica, but there are other kinds. Sand on ocean beaches usually includes a high proportion of shell pieces and, increasingly, bits of decomposing plastic trash." – David Owen in The New Yorker