Sand may be among the most abundant materials on earth but we still seem to face a shortage of the stuff. But most sand that we know is not suitable for construction purposes. While beach sand is too salty to be used for construction, desert sand is too smooth. Enter the use of plastic waste as an alternative to sand.
We require vast quantities of sand just in the construction sector, consuming around 40 to 50 billion tons annually. The right varieties are sourced mainly from river beds but their extraction harms the river by eroding banks, destroying the habitats of aquatic life forms, and altering river courses.
But their adverse impact has led countries like Vietnam, Cambodia, and India to restrict the extraction of sand from river beds. This has led to the entry of criminal gangs who control the extraction and distribution of sand from river beds.
Shobha Bhatia from the civil and environmental engineering department of Syracuse University says that people are generally not aware that we are staring at a shortage of sand. The unprecedented pace of construction, along with its use in many manufacturing processes including solar panels, TV screens, and smartphones has only made the demand for an alternative more urgent.
Sand Made From Plastic Waste Can Replace Part Of The Sand Used In Construction
The introduction of innovative technology has led to a new source of sand. Plastic waste can be processed to produce an alternative to sand that can be poured into concrete. Lecturer Dr. John Orr of Cambridge University, who specializes in concrete structures, has created an alternative to sand from plastic waste.
He has discovered that the plastic waste needs to be sorted and cleaned, and then shredded, crushed, and mixed to create a product that can replace part of the sand that is used in construction activities.
The development of an alternative to sand from plastic waste has its relevance in countries like India. While the construction boom across the country has created a supply-demand bottleneck, the country produces 15,000 tons of plastic waste every day.
Using plastic waste wouldn’t be just a huge benefit for the environment. It is also cheaper. Researchers have found that around 10% of sand used in plastic can be replaced with plastic without compromising on the strength of the construction.