An Oceans Abcdarium created by the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz, Germany


Alexander Friedrich and Luis Santana Hernandez

Sand is used as a resource by many industries—and is in fact considered to be the second most consumed natural resource on Earth after freshwater. Among those industrial consumers, the ever-growing construction industry plays an important role. Sand has been essential for many building materials such as bricks, mortar, and concrete since antiquity. In 2019, a United Nations report declared a global sand crisis. Most of the Earth’s industrially used sand was formerly mined from riverbeds and land quarries, but intensive exploitation and legal regulations have necessitated a search for alternative sources, and desert sand is not a viable substitute due to its shape and core characteristics. Therefore marine sand mining has become increasingly significant. The resulting impacts of such mining on the environment are serious—including the destruction of habitats with alterations on fish population, coastal erosion, and water pollution. Ideas for substituting alluvial sand in the construction industry altogether include using fly ash, recycled concrete, crushed aggregate from quarried stone, construction and demolition waste, recycled glass, and many other materials. The murals were placed consciously on concrete buildings in the middle of nature. They aim to remind passers-by of the imbalance in the relationship between humans and marine life and advocate for peaceful coexistence.

Sources: Gavriletea, M.D., “Environmental Impacts of Sand Exploitation: Analysis of the Sand Market”, Sustainability, vol. 9, (2017): 1118.

Santhosh, Kumar Gedela; Sk M. Subhani and A. Bahurudeen, “Cleaner production of concrete by using industrial by-products as fine aggregate: A sustainable solution to excessive river sand mining”, Journal of Building Engineering, vol. 42, (2021).

Zadeh, A.A. et al., “Sustainable Sand Substitutes in the Construction Industry in the United States and Canada: Assessing Stakeholder Awareness”, Sustainability, (2022).