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Travel experts reveal the effects of sand mining on the world's most popular beaches

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A new study by Next Vacay sees how much sand goes into the buildings around us, and what this practice could be doing to the beaches we know and love.

With an estimated 50 billion tonnes of sand used every year, sand is going extinct. After air and water, sand is our most used natural resource. We use it even more than oil. It's used to make food, wine, toothpaste, glass, computer chips, breast implants, cosmetics, paper, paint, plastics. What's more, sand mining is how construction sand is extracted from the sea. It’s a practice that is hugely damaging to the environment and is a leading cause of coastal erosion and wildlife loss.

A new study by Next Vacay sees how much sand goes into the buildings around us, and what this practice could be doing to the beaches we know and love.

An alarming statistic for you: 67% of Southern California beaches? GONE by 2100. All because of sand. There are predicted to be 1.23 million new homes built across the USA in 2022, and each of them needs bricks and concrete to stand. That means sand and lots of it. Each single unit home requires an average of 32,550kg of sand in its construction, totaling 43.05 million tonnes throughout the course of the year. 

But how does this affect popular beaches?
Copacabana Brazil uses 12,544 tonnes of sand for 1 meter of beach- and is at risk for sand mining. If you really want to get your sand fix, look no further than Copacabana Brazil. This stunning beach needs a whopping 12,544 tons of sand to cover the entire beach in 1 meter of sand, so is the most at risk. No wonder sand is the world’s second most consumed natural resource!

South Beach Miami is known for its energy, beauty, and lifestyle, but if you want to keep the party going across the entire beach, you’re going to need a lot of sand. That’s why South Beach Miami needs 10,400 tons of sand to cover the entire beach in 1 meter of sand. That’s one impressive sandcastle, however, its fine white sand and shallow waters put this beach at risk if sand mining continues.

The home of the Santa Monica beach isn't doing much to defend against sand extinction, despite being part of modern beach culture that immensely supports local businesses. While it only uses up 1,587 tons of sand to cover the beach in 1 meter of sand, new homes built across the USA could potentially drain this beautiful beach. For every new home, you’d have to scrap Santa Monica Beach, California, 27,126 times. You’re going to need a bigger bucket.

50 billion tons of sand is mined every year
In construction, sand is in pretty much everything. It goes into other materials to add bulk and strength, such as concrete, mortar, asphalt, and cement. It gets melted down to make glass for windows and mirrors. It’s used in clay that’s turned into bricks.  Without sand, buildings couldn’t happen, and the homes and offices we live and work in wouldn’t exist.

200 metric tonnes of sand goes into just one house, so you can imagine how much is needed to build a skyscraper, or an office block, or a big Walmart. Concrete is 75% marine sand. We’ve used this stat to work out which concrete-heavy landmarks across the world use the most sand in their construction, and how big this amount actually is.

The structures that use the most sand

Rank

Structure

Location

Tons of sand needed

Number of dumper trucks

Size of pile of sand in terms of Mt.Everest

1

The Three Gorges Dam

Yiling District, Yichang,

Hubei province, China

43,602,061

670,801

0.45771

2

The Panama Canal

Isthmus of Panama

7,961,051

122,478

0.08357

3

Hoover Dam

Nevada, United States

5,340,028

82,154

0.05606

4

The Pentagon

Arlington County, Virginia, United States

532,778

8,197

0.00559

5

Burj Khalifa

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

528,643

8,133

0.00555

6

The Motherland Calls

Volgograd Oblast, Russia

5,520

85

0.00006

7

The Pantheon

Roma, Italy

3,129

48

0.00003

8

The Eiffel Tower

Paris, France

3,044

47

0.00003

9

Christ The Redeemer

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

997

15

0.00001

10

Statue of Liberty

New York, United States

938

14

0.00001

The Three Gorges Dam uses 43,602,066 tonnes of sand - more than any other building in the world
The Three Gorges Dam uses more sand than any other building in the world. This structure used 43,602,066 tonnes of sand in its construction and is the world’s largest power supply, capable of turning water into up to 22,500 MW of hydroelectric energy. Shockingly, this amount of sand would need 670,801 dumper trucks to carry it - no wonder sand is the world’s second most consumed natural resource.

The Panama Canal uses 7,961,051 tonnes of sand across North and South AmericaIf you want to connect the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean across an entire country, you’re going to need a lot of sand. That’s why The Panama Canal used up 7,961,051 tonnes of it, stretching across 83km to connect two oceans and allow easier, quickier maritime trade. If you were to pile all that sand up, you’d be looking at something around 0.08 times the height of Mount Everest. That’s one impressive sandcastle, requiring 122,478 dumper trucks to move.

The Hoover Dam is made from 5,340,028 tonnes of sand
The home of the USA’s Department of Defense isn’t doing much to defend against sand extinction. While it’s very difficult to break into, it also uses up a staggering 532,778 tonnes of sand. That’s the equivalent of 8,197 dumper trucks - traffic jams galore.

Save our sands - book your trip now to support local economies
Every time you pay a visit to a beach, not only do you get to enjoy a fantastic day out surrounded by sand, sea, and - hopefully - sun, but you also support local businesses. This money allows them to do more to protect their environment, pay their locals, and keep the sand where it belongs - by the side of the sea and underneath your feet. 

Sign up to our flight finder today to discover the best available deals on some of the world’s most stunning beaches. Just remember to leave the sand where you found it.

Naveen Dittakavi, founder and CEO of Next Vacay comments: “While it may seem trivial in the face of the pandemic, sand is a critical element of our lives. Running out of sand will have a knock-on effect for the people and communities who live near these areas, or travelers heading to some of the world’s top tourist destinations. 

From Santa Monica to St Tropez, these images show the severity of the situation, which is no longer as invisible as it used to be. With 50 billion tonnes of sand being used every year, this is becoming one of the biggest sustainability challenges of the next 10 years - so we need to act fast if we want to protect our local economies and beautiful beaches.”

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