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Slowing the sands of time

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The global sand industry is running out of time, and the UK landscaping market needs to seek appropriate alternatives or see profits slip through the cracks.

Sand. Everybody in the world uses it every day. From the chips inside smartphones and the glass in our windowpanes to the cement holding our homes together and the roads we take to work. It is the most-consumed natural resource on the planet besides water. In landscaping and construction, we are probably more in contact with the raw material than in any other industry. And yet, this precious commodity is running out.

50 billion tonnes of aggregate are used every year[1], and global population growth, urbanisation and development are driving large increases in international demand for sand and other aggregates. As Pascal Peduzzi, a researcher with the United Nations Environment Programme, says “we cannot extract 50 billion tonnes per year of any material without leading to massive impacts on the planet and thus on people’s lives.” These impacts include not only the disappearance of riverbeds and shorelines worldwide, but an escalating trade in black market sand and increased sand piracy[2].

However, awareness of the global sand crisis is escalating, and scientists worldwide are finding solutions to replace sand in concrete with other materials, including fly ash, the material left over by coal-fired power stations; shredded plastic[3]; and even crushed oil palm shells and rice husks[4].

The construction and landscaping industry will always require sand and aggregate to build safely and keep rooves over the nation’s heads. However, where possible, we should seek to reduce our use of these primary resources and think outside the box when it comes to decreasing our dependence on aggregates.

Within the landscaping industry, Azpects Ltd has been working on a solution to the aggregate problem when creating outdoor living spaces such as patios, paths, and driveways. Their new product, EASYClickBase, is a synthetic sub-base that replaces the traditional ‘dig-out’ part of the creation process, saving time, money and – importantly – aggregate. Early feedback suggests that for a 50m2 domestic vehicular driveway that would traditionally require the excavation of 15 tonnes of soil, and the import of 20 – 30 tonnes of sand and fine aggregates, EASYClickBase requires an excavation of around 2-4 tonnes and just 5 tonnes of replacement aggregate[5]. In addition, early adopters have reported trimming at least one day of labour from the expected completion time.

EASYClickBase replaces the traditional full mortar laying bed, cutting down the need for sand and cement in that phase of installation. Thin surface dressings, such as porcelain tiles, can be glued directly to the sub-base, while block paving can be laid on a layer of bedding sand. Made from 100% recycled plastic and manufactured by a carbon-neutral company, EASYClickBase has the potential to significantly reduce the environmental impact of landscaping projects.

The combination of cost savings and eco-credentials couldn’t come at a better time, as customers are increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their outdoor living spaces. In a recent webinar titled ‘Consumer Trends in a Post-Pandemic World’, trend analysts Scarlet Opus suggested the environmental movement has been brought forward 5+ years in consumers’ minds[6].

Whilst we may never be able to completely halt the hourglass on the use of sand and aggregates, innovations like EASYClickBase may help us slow the tide to a trickle for the landscaping industry.

[1] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191108-why-the-world-is-running-out-of-sand

[2] https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20191108-why-the-world-is-running-out-of-sand

[3] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0950061817323474

[4]  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590048X19300147

[5] Figures are approximate and dependent on site conditions.

[6] https://gima.org.uk/events/webinar-scarlet-opus/

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