First assignment of group n° 091


First description of our project

The Sandcastles War

First description of our project's idea

Our project is based on the problem of the seabed sand exploitation which affects both the environment and the economy.
Sand has become a very important mineral for the expansion of society. Not only is it used for glass but even more so for producing concrete, filling roads, building sites, and even computer components. Our problematic also comes from the fact that by 2100 many of the beaches will be gone because of these overexploitation.

1. What problem do you want to solve ?

The problem is that 15 billion tons of seabed sand are used every year and this resource is not unlimited. Moreover the sand used for the production process are non-renewable resources.
The overexploitation of sand has slowly caused the destruction of the seabed ecosystem and coastal erosions because sand is moving down by gravity to fill the void created by the seabed extractions. Therefore, it causes an impact on both environmental and economic, considering the number of houses that will be destroyed along the coasts. In a short term, lots of islands are threatened of extinction because of the beaches withdrawal.

2. Why does this problem exist?

The problem exists because the seabed sand is a free resource on earth and unfortunately the desert sand is not an alternative for the production process.
Today, each dredge, a big boat use for aspirate the seabed sand, represents an investment of 20 to 150 million €. As the sand is a free resource available in large quantities, those machines are quickly profitable. That is why the price of seabed sand is actually very cheap and doesn’t exceed 30 € per ton.
Therefore, the problem exists because of the human intervention for decades and because companies are mainly supported by the State and do not take into account future damages affected by these overexploitations.

3. What breakthrough are you committed to creating?

Our challenge is to find a substitute to seabed sand in the production process.
The current sand alternatives are not optimal solutions because they are more expensive to produce. For that it is necessary to create a way to improve and increase the production of sand from recycling system. Use of recycled aggregates is possible in construction processes, as partial replacement of sand. The recycling granulates is today very little used in building process (6.3% in France). Therefore, those new alternatives should be sustainable, nonpolluting and attractive. Given the important issue which we are exposed, it is necessary to change these processes in the short term and long term, trying to propose roughly equivalent prices to consumers of sand.
Our criteria of success will be based on the proportion of sand from other minerals or recycling cycle, such as glass or concrete gravel, compared to the proportion of seabed sand over the entire annual consumption of sand. The aim is to increase the proportion of sand from other material in order to slow down the exploitation of the seabed sand.

Potential experts already identified
Please mention the potential experts (name, affiliation, likelihood to convince him/her to join the final panel)

  • Denis Delestrac : Author and filmmaker especially known for his movie "Sand Wars" which highlighted the fact that we are running out of sand.
  • Michael Welland : British geologist and expert on sand
  • Kiran Pereira : Expert on Environment, King’s College Londres
  • Cyrille Simonnet : Head of the architecture institute, Université de Genève
  • Eric Chaumillon : Geologist, Université de La Rochelle
  • Claire Le Guern : General director of the ONG.
  • Chou Loke Ming : Professor of marine biology, Université de Singapour
  • Riza Damanik : Director of ONG People’s coalition for fisheries justice
  • Sumaira Abdulali : President of the foundation Awaaz
  • Gary Criggs : Professor, université de Santa Cruz, Californie
  • Yvon Chouinard : Founder of mouvement 1% for the planet
  • Shaun Tomson : Consultant for Foundation Surfrider
  • Erik Myers : Environment activist in Florida
  • Pieter de Pous : EU Policy Director for the European Environmental Bureau

Resources used by the team


Book : "Introduction to California's Beaches and Coast (California Natural History Guides)" by Gary Griggs, 2010


Jiantao LIU

Book : "Le sable et ses mystères" by Jacques Lapaire and Paul Miéville, 2012


Victoria LEZMI

Book : "Sand: The Never-Ending Story" by Michael Welland, 2010



Book : "Suivi des impacts de l'extraction de granulats marins" by Michel Desprez and Robert Lafite, 2012



Book : "The Last Beach" by Orrin H. Pilkey Jr. and J. Andrew G. Cooper, 2014


Jia FU

Book : "Saving America's Beaches: The Causes of and Solutions to Beach Erosion" by Scott L. Douglass, 2002


Maxime KHAOU

Book : "Sand Mining: Environmental Impacts and Selected Case Studies" by D. Padmalal and K. Maya, 2014