A few years ago, we were lucky enough to have a holiday in Thailand. As we were staying in a more secluded spot, away from the hustle and bustle of the touristy attractions, we got to see how many of the Thai people live in regional areas. Once of the things we noticed was trees lining the roadside and taking over vast areas of land that had taps inserted in them (yes, taps made from bamboo) and a white substance pouring out. We soon learned that this substance was latex rubber.
For a long time, I thought rubber could only be made by synthetic means, but I now realise that there two forms:
Natural Rubber which is made from a runny, milky white liquid called latex that is found in certain plants, when you cut into them. Over 200 plants in the world can produce this latex, but the most productive plants are the Pará rubber trees (Hevea brasiliensis), a member of the spurge family, Euphorbiaceae.
Synthetic Rubber is made using petrochemicals and has to go through a chemical process to form the rubber. The most common synthetic rubbers that can be found are polyacrylics, and polyvinyl acetate (PVA), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), styrene butadiene (SBR), polychloroprene (better known as neoprene) and various types of polyurethane.
Where can you find Rubber
It is amazing the amount of items that Rubber goes into. As the material super-stretchy it is ideal for items like elastic bands and rubber stamps, but it is also strong and waterproof, which allows it makes it very useful for items like tyres, wetsuits, swimming caps, waterproof clothing, yoga & exercise equipment, cabling, adhesives and much more.
What is vulcanized rubber?
Natural rubber is often vulcanized, which means it is heated to about 140°C (280°F) and sulphur, peroxide or bisphenol are then added to enhance its resistance and elasticity, and to stabilise the final material or product. We can thank Charles Goodyear who in 1839 developed this method to strengthened the rubber for vehicle tyres.
Some people are allergic to Latex
I hate to say it, I am one of these people. It didn’t help when I worked in the laboratory to be allergic to natural latex gloves. It is important to know that some people have a serious latex allergy to natural latex rubber products and they need to be aware of this when using such products. To avoid such allergic reactions, it is best to use products that are made from non-Hevea sources, such as Guayule, another source for rubber.
Why choose Natural Rubber?
Natural rubber, also called Para rubber, India rubber or caoutchouc, with Malaysia being one of the leading producers of rubber. Currently, natural rubber is harvested mainly in the form of the latex (the sticky, milky colloid liquid) by tapping into the tree and bringing the latex, often coagulated to a plant for processing. The latex is then strained, diluted with water, treated with acid, before rolling into sheets, drying and then shipped to make the various products.
Natural rubber or tree-derived rubber is eco-friendly. Harvesting and using the product itself has less impact on the environment. The Rubber tree is a sustainable crop and helps maintain the global carbon balance in the atmosphere.
As you can see, the collection and processing of natural rubber is a manual process, which sadly means we can't produce enough natural rubber to meet the consumer demand. So much of our rubber products are produced by chemical (synthetic) means. Not so good for the environment.
Another to be aware about and something I am not happy about, is that some countries are clearing native vegetation to make way for Para rubber trees. Often the people producing the latex are poor farmers from developing areas. They clear the land not realising that it is affecting the natural habitat and ecosystem for many animals, insects and plants in these countries.
Natural rubber can be recycled. Normally most rubbers would go to landfill, creating waste and pollution, but natural rubber can be recycled into another product, like tyres. What is even better is when recycled rubber products come to the end of their life, they can be recycled again into another product.
Why is Natural rubber is the ideal for kids?
As the word says it is Natural. Contains no toxic chemicals or petroleum components.
Soft and flexible material, which makes it safe for children to use and play with.
Sustainable material. When a rubber tree reaches the end of its latex production life (approximately 12 years), it is replaced by a new sapling;
Natural rubber is environmentally friendly as natural rubber products have a minimal impact on the environment during harvesting, manufacturing and recycling.
No artificial colouring or chemical softners.
Easy to wash and care for.
This is why we sell the natural rubber soothers and teethers by makeUwell®. Stylishly designed and ideal for both bottle-fed babies and for bubs who are being breastfed. Check them out in earthly passion for kids.
Hope this helps you when shopping for items made from rubber. In some cases, it may be difficult to avoid synthetic rubber, but where there is an option always go for the natural rubber. Also, consider if the product is reusable or recyclable.
Be earthly passionate,
Attracta & the earthly passion team.