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bottle in the sea

The beaches of Mexico, threatened by the extraction of sand

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That it is an idyllic beach without sand to lie down and enjoy the sun and the sound of the waves_

Glass is a material with which a wide variety of products are made, from windows, bottles to pieces of jewelry. Its main component is silicon, which is found in rocks and sand, and it is the second most abundant element on Earth, after oxygen.

Despite its abundance, sand is not a renewable resource, as it forms over millions of years. The sand of the beaches and rivers comes from rocks eroded by water, while the desert sand arose from the temperature and wind conditions that wore down the rocks.

Even though desert sand does contain silica, the way desert rocks erode causes the particles to be different from those in seas and rivers. The shape of the desert sand grains is spherical, while those that are eroded by bodies of water have an irregular shape. It is thanks to this heterogeneity that the sand of rivers and seas can join together to form glass, while the raw material of the desert cannot.

To meet global demand, 50 billion tons of sand are mined annually, making it the most used resource on the planet after water, according to the report. Sand and Sustainability of the UN in 2019.

sand infographic

Courtesy: Pixabay

loss of beaches

According to a article published in the journal Science in 2017, the extraction of sand from rivers, beaches and sea beds causes serious environmental problems of erosion, water pollution by suspended particles, loss of biodiversity; and in the case of the seas, the disappearance of coral reefs, generating an imbalance in coastal ecosystems.

In the same article he mentions the serious impacts that sand mining has on people's lives. The beaches protect the coastal communities against the waves of the sea. When the coasts are eroded by continuous extraction, large areas of beaches and wetlands disappear, making populations vulnerable to floods and, in the case of Mexico, hurricanes.

This generates another type of global demand, since it becomes necessary to recover land in areas of frequent flooding, either due to meteorological phenomena or due to the effects of Climate Change.

El study of 2020 by the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico analyzed the evolution of the coastline of the Yucatan Peninsula. They found that over 40 years, setbacks of up to 19 meters were reported on some beaches. The authors point out that the main factors that affect the Yucatecan coasts are the hotel infrastructure and the illegal extraction of sand.

threatened coasts in mexico

In Punta Cancún, Quintana Roo, the retreat of the beach due to anthropogenic and natural causes is observed (Martínez-Rivera et al., 2020).

What is being done?

The Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) has only granted three concessions for the extraction of sand on beaches. However, the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection of Mexico (Profepa) registered 89 complaints between 2013 and 2018 for illegal sand extraction. According to Obras magazine, some of the states in which this activity was reported are Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Jalisco and Oaxaca.

To curb this unsustainable practice, the UN suggested in its report the application of effective planning, regulation and management policies. Innovation is necessary to find solutions to these types of environmental problems.

  • El glass is 100% recyclable and it can be reused without losing quality or purity because none of its components degrade with everyday use.

Glass recycling is a sustainable and responsible practice to protect natural resources, says José Luis Pérez, director of the Closing the Cycle recycling project. Reusing discarded glass allows the recovery of raw material (silica) in order to create other glass objects, without the need to extract sand from beaches and rivers for its manufacture. Although the recycling of this material has existed for several years, in Mexico only 12% of the glass generated is recycled.

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