Every year, a hurricane or typhoon season arrives, and along with it the potential of massive flooding. With an estimated 80% of the human population living within 60 miles of a coastline – 75% of all major cities in the world located along one, not counting those near rivers or other bodies of water – people have always sought ways to control this threat. One of the most common techniques is the use of sandbags.
What are sandbags, and why use them?
Sandbags are double-purpose, protecting both human property and the environment by controlling floodwaters and therefore helping prevent soil erosion. Not only can the floodwater itself damage buildings, it also erodes the valuable, nutrient-rich topsoil from farms.
Floodwaters also bring along dangerous sediments from construction sites to the ocean, which can prove fatal to many marine organisms, particularly the corals where fish live. It is estimated that around 80% of all sea pollution come from land, and one of these major pollutants are sediments. That’s why for many people around the world, having sandbags are a necessity to protect not only their property but also their food source. After all, around 3.5 billion people around the world depend on the ocean for food, and you’re probably one of them.
What are sandbags made of?
Traditionally, sandbags were made out of burlap or hessian cloth. Burlap is a very durable fabric, used in a variety of purposes from transporting food to even as temporary protection for setting concrete and cement in construction. Yet despite this durability, it has one weakness. While it can resist condensation and prevent the spoilage of food, the fabric itself will eventually rot. And since burlap is a woven fabric, it may not effectively filter out very fine sediment from the passing floodwater.
This is why newer substitutes for the traditional burlap sandbags have been invented. Today, people have the option of buying sandbags made out of synthetic material such as PVC, which are sturdier than burlap sandbags. Because they are made out of synthetic material, they don’t rot and can be used more often than the burlap ones.
The composition of the synthetic material also filters out contaminants and sediments more efficiently than burlap. And since it’s synthetic, many PVC sandbags also come in a wide variety of bright colors for improved visibility – especially if they are used to seal off a road or a passageway.
Some companies have even done away with the sandbag concept entirely and have designed barriers to prevent erosion. They can be made out of recycled tire rubber, which not only makes them very sturdy but also environment-friendly.
Garbage bags – not a substitute
However, despite the availability of these new synthetic sandbags and barriers, some people still commit the mistake of using garbage bags as substitutes. After all, garbage bags are generally cheaper than synthetic sandbags.
This is a practice that must be stamped out, as garbage bags are not as strong as other sandbags. They might even break up faster than the prone-to-rotting traditional burlap bags – defeating the purpose of using synthetic material in the first place. That’s why it’s still better to buy the more expensive synthetic sandbags meant for the job, rather than pinch pennies now and suffer the consequences later.