Episode 853: Peak Sand : Planet Money Sand. It's in buildings, windows, your cell phone. But there isn't enough in the world for everyone. And that's created a dangerous black market.

Episode 853: Peak Sand

Sarah Gonzalez/NPR
Stolen beach.
Sarah Gonzalez/NPR

A few years ago, an entire beach in a remote area of Jamaica vanished. Thieves dug up hundreds of tons of sand and hauled it away in dump trucks in the middle of the night. The sand--white, powdery, Caribbean sand--was worth about a million dollars.

It was an early sign that the world was facing a growing problem. Sand is a key ingredient in all kinds of things. It's in concrete, in glass, in your cell phone. But there isn't enough sand in the world for everyone, and we're starting to run out. So people are stealing it, smuggling it, and getting killed over it.

Today on the show, we follow a sand detective on a quest to find a stolen beach. There's a helicopter chase, death threats, even a little sand forensics. The Queen of England is involved. But stolen sand is very hard to find, and even harder to get back.

Music: "Black Surf Duel" and "Flinging About."

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