Most of us use and rely on rubber and the products made from the material on a daily basis, but where it comes from and how it is manufactured is a mystery to us. Rubber has a long and difficult history, being used exclusively at first by the societies that could claim it as a natural resource. While the way in which we grow, harvest, manufacture, and use tires has changed over the centuries, it is just as needed and valued today as it was back then.
These are 5 quick facts of the rubber industry.
Rubber Comes From Trees
Rubber is a natural resource that grows in trees, and is collected much in the same way we collect sap that is used to make maple syrup. The rubber tree grows naturally in warm, temperate regions around the world, but is now farmed in similar areas. Currently, Southeast Asian countries are the largest producers of rubber producing about ninety percent of natural rubber. The number of naturally producing rubber trees will never be able to meet the demand for rubber, not even with the addition of more land for farming, so a solution to the rubber need was heavily invested in from the beginning of the 1900s.
Rubber is Heavily Processed
Natural rubber is heavily processed in order to make it suitable for use in many industries as well as to increase its durability in everyday products. Through a common process known as vulcanization, sulfur is added to naturally occurring rubber to tighten the existing bonds in order to make it stronger and more durable. This process makes it possible to create so many more materials out of rubber and makes it suitable for use in more industries. The production of synthetic rubber has come under scrutiny over the years because the process is not entirely environmentally friendly, but this concern has also led to the creation of the recycled rubber industry.
Most Rubber is Synthetic
Even though natural rubber is still in production today, the manufacturing of synthetic rubber is now responsible for the majority of rubber used in production today. Synthetic rubber was produced in 1909, and since then has been the preferred product for so many industries, including for the production of rubber tires. The push for creating synthetic rubber came about as the demand for rubber outpaced the ability to grow and harvest it naturally, largely due in part to the bicycle tire industry. As soon as synthetic rubber was created, companies and countries began experimenting with manufacturing tires for all types of vehicles. Today, both natural and synthetic rubber is widely used and in demand to support many different industries.
Rubber Can be Recycled
Both natural and synthetic rubber can be recycled, and this is a great option to keep rubber out of landfills where it does not break down quickly. Recycled rubber is used to create new rubberlike materials as it is sometimes combined with other materials in order to create something new. During the process of recycling rubber, beneficial and useful byproducts are often created and harvested, making the end product of recycled rubber smart and profitable. Companies around the world encourage the recycling of rubber and have built an entire industry around the product.
Rubber is Used in Many Common Products
Rubber is used in so many products these days, many of their uses are often surprising to consumers even though they have been using the products their entire lives. Some of the newer uses for rubber include roads and highways, and construction and building materials because of its strength and durability. Everything from clothing to shoes to tableware and even electronics contains rubber within or as part of their construction. Rubbers ability to provide the strongest seals makes it an excellent choice for waterproofing and gas proofing everything from goggles to underwater equipment.