Is Natural Rubber Eco-Friendly?

Is Natural Rubber Eco-Friendly?

Why Write About Rubber?

Rubber is one of the most used resources in the world. It is so popular they even named a movie about it, although I don't recommend watching it and if you look it up, you'll understand why. Anyway, rubber is used in more than 40,000 products which means demand is high for this resource. As we look into rubber, this factor is important to consider.

This article is not going to explain any solutions to natural rubber because it is a very complex issue and rubber plays such a heavy part in the economy, but it will provide some information and pros and cons on natural rubber.

There are two kinds of rubber - synthetic rubber and natural rubber. Synthetic rubber is created in a factory and uses non-renewable resources while natural rubber comes from a plant, so it is renewable, to an extent. 

First off, how is natural rubber made?

Natural rubber is mainly harvested in the form of latex from the rubber tree, or the scientific name, Hevea brasiliensis. These trees are most popular in Malaysia, and Indonesia, with 90% of rubber farming done in Asia. The reason this plant was selected, although there are other rubber trees, is because the latex is all connected in the tree, so it is much more simple to extract. In order to extract the rubber, a process called "tapping" is used. When a tree is tapped, a groove is sliced into the tree with a hooked knife and the bark is pulled back. Latex will run down this groove and collected in a cup. Latex can spill from the tree for up to 5 hours. 

rubber tapping process image photo picture

Once the latex is collected, ammonia is added, to prevent the latex from solidifying. To extract the rubber, acid is mixed into it, in a process called coagulation. This rubber can then be shaped into whatever mold it is placed into.

What are the benefits of natural rubber?

Natural rubber provides many benefits. This includes being anti-bacterial and waterproof. It is also sustainable (to an extent) especially when compared to synthetic rubber or plastics and does not contain any harmful chemicals or pesticides. Natural rubber is extremely durable and elastic, so they can stand the test of time. 

rubber dog toy photo image picture

It is a safe material for dog toys and can be turned into unlimited different shapes and sizes. These kind of toys can be stimulating for a dog's mental health and even help eliminate plaque buildup on their teeth! Natural rubber remains as one of the most popular options in dog toys for these, and many more, reasons.

What are the issues with natural rubber?

Although natural rubber is more friendly to the environment than plastic or synthetic rubber, there are also issues with this process. 

Remember when I said the demand of natural rubber would be important in this article? Well, the demand is constantly increasing. the issue is that a rubber tree takes at least 6 years before being able to be harvested and with a small area that the plantations can exist, land has to be cleared in order to grow more trees. This can cause destruction of habitats and homes for thousands of animals.

rubber tree deforestation photo image picture

The rubber tree also makes up of 90% of natural rubber, so there is not much variation in the plant which can lead to diseases and possibly wiping out entire plantations.

For those with allergies, natural rubber can still contain latex and cause serious allergic reactions, even with tiny amounts of latex.

To add on top of all of that, rubber extraction is not a high paying job and is extremely labor intensive. This leads to labor issues in Asia and is a difficult problem to solve.

Why discuss the benefits and issues of natural rubber?

With natural rubber being so popular in dog toys, not many people understand how it's made or what the benefits and issues can be, even though it is used in our everyday lives. I believe it is important to educate those who may not know and interested in learning more about it. With the many benefits of natural rubber, there are  

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