What’s The Deal With Sardinia Sand Theft?

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If you steal Sardinia sand you won’t just do damage to the local environment, but you are also likely to get into trouble.

Sardinia is home to an extensive variety of unique environments and its beaches are no exception. Many have a type of sand and/or rocks that can only be found on the island and therefore need to be treated with extra care: after all, there is only one Sardinia on the whole planet!

Beaches such as Is Arutas are known for their quartz, rice-shaped grains of sand; whereas Budelli, in Maddalena Archipelago, is a pink beach thanks to the presence of coral in the sand. The temptation to grab a plastic bag or a small bottle and fill it with sand can be strong sometimes, but you should never, under any circumstances do it. I am here to explain the many reasons why.

Sardinia sand
Arbus is famous for its sand

Why You Should Not Steal Sardinia Sand

There are several reasons why sand is important and it should stay in its place of origin. The first one is, obviously, that each environment needs every piece of itself in order to function properly. Here’s a brief list of some other reasons why you should never take away any sand from Sardinian beaches – and in fact from anywhere in the world!

Sand takes ages to form

It shouldn’t be something you’ve never heard of, right? Sand is basically made of rocks, shaped by the endless cycle of tides and waves: it takes thousand of years to polish and shape any grain of sand.

Every small bottle of Sardinia sand you take from the beach is virtually lost forever. Now think again about the special beaches in Sardinia: these masterpieces of nature were created only thanks to the beaches’ location, waves’ frequency, climate conditions, and so on. Nature will never be able to produce as much sand as humans take away.

Care to be a more responsible tourist? Read this!

There are many better souvenirs

Sure, a pretty bottle with some pretty sand probably does look good on your living room’s shelf, but why should you ruin a perfectly balanced environment when you can buy something typical in any souvenir shop?

If you want something that will last, you can buy some Sardinian jewelry (obsidian stone and coral are typically manufactured on the island and are stunning!); some hand-weaved fabric or basket; or a thousand other trinkets that will not damage the environment. Or you can even buy as much Sardinian food as you can stock in your luggage!

Looking for the best souvenirs from Sardinia? Read this!

Su Giudeu
Su Giudeu is known for its sand dunes

If everyone stole stand, beaches would disappear

If you take some sand, why shouldn’t other people do it too? Just imagine every person on the beach takes the same amount of sand: a small bottle would turn into thousands of small bottles… and the beach would disappear in a week, tops.

This is to say: never try to justify yourself with the thought of “it’s only me, what could possibly happen?”

It’s not only you. It never is. Some beaches have already been closed to the public because of excessive sand theft (the most famous example is the Pink Beach in Budelli) and many others (like Stintino’s La Pelosa or Villasimius’ Punta Molentis) became restricted access beaches for the same reason.

There’s a reason why we call it “sand theft”

There is one more reason why I am writing this post. Sand theft is actually illegal in Sardinia – as well as many other places in Italy. There are two separate laws to protect the environment from thieves: Code of Sailing’s Art. 1162 and Regional Law n.16/2017.

What Does The Law Say?

First of all, both laws say that it is forbidden to take away sand, algae, shells/conchs, stones, pebbles, and living or dead animals (such as starfishes) from their place of origin. If caught with any of these items, the Code of Sailing calls for a fine between €1,549 and €9,296 (yes, almost €10,000!), while the second, specific for Sardinia and more focused on sand theft, calls for a fine between €500 and €3000.

There are, however, proposals to make the punishments harsher because, apparently, the fine is too low and doesn’t discourage thieves as much as locals would like: in fact, 20 tons of sand were stolen from Sardinian beaches in 2019, and in 2020 the airport authorities alone confiscated about 50 tons of stolen sand.

The main proposal is to actually sentence repeat / large offenders to jail – but to date, such proposal has yet to make it into the law. The case of the two French tourists who were found with 40 kilos of sand in their SUV has become famous: they were initially supposed to spend up to 6 years in prison, but in the end, they only paid a higher fine.

Among other law embitterment proposals, there is one to temporarily confiscate cars or yachts or stop sand thieves from leaving the island until they pay the fine. Sadly, in fact, many tourists refuse to pay the fine once they are back in their home country and there is virtually no way to force them to pay.

Punta Molentis
Punta Molentis now has restricted access

What do locals do to prevent theft of Sardinia sand?

Recently, volunteer associations have formed spontaneously to make things easier for the authorities.

The most famous one is called “Sardegna Rubata e Depredata”, and was formed by the airports’ security workers who, after their scheduled work time is over, drive to anywhere necessary and return the confiscated sand for free. They have contributed to many beaches’ preservation for several years now.

Various villages and cities have also started to hire (seasonally or permanently) people, often youngsters, to stroll on the beaches and stop/report any sand theft they might witness. They are often paired with actual policemen wearing plain clothes, just in case something bad happens and someone with the right authority needs to intervene fast.

I hope this post has clarified why it is important to respect the beaches and leave them as they are. It is quite sad that the government had to create a whole set of rules and will probably have to embitter them because people’s common sense is not enough – but unfortunately, there was no other choice.

Remember, anywhere in the world, leave only footprints; take only memories!

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Discover why you should never take Sardinia sand - via @c_tavani

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