Of all the rubber that is produced every year, nearly half of it is natural. The other half is synthetic, and is derived from petroleum. Asia is the main source of natural rubber, with the biggest contributions coming from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Together, these three countries account for nearly ¾ of all natural rubber production. Rubber latex is extracted from rubber trees, which typically live for about 30 years or so. Rubber trees require soil that is well-drained and consists of laterite. They also need the following climate: an absence of strong winds, bright sunshine for approximately six hours a day and 2000 hours per year, a high atmospheric humidity of about 80%, temperature range between 20 and 34 degrees Celsius, and rainfall of about 250 cm per year, with at least 100 rainy days per year and no marked dry season. In some places, people use the half shell of a coconut to collect the latex. Where the coconut is not common, plastic or aluminum cups are used. The cups are supported by a wire that surrounds the tree and stretches as the tree grows. The tree is usually tapped in the morning, when the internal pressure of the tree is high. The trees drip latex for approximately four hours. Experienced tappers are able to tap a tree every 20 seconds, and can tap somewhere between 500 and 600 trees every day.


More than 2/3 of the world’s natural rubber is used for manufacturing tires. Tires, for cars, bikes, and any other vehicle, are by far the biggest single use of rubber in the world. Rubber can be used for other reasons, however. For example, they make up almost all latex products, such as balloons, condoms, and surgeons’ gloves. Other uses include windshield wipers, marine products, and conveyor belts. Synthetic rubber tends to provide better resistance to environmental factors such as ultraviolet light, chemicals, temperature, and oils, while natural rubber provides better elasticity.

rubber band


Tires are among the most problematic and largest sources of waste in the entire world. It is estimated that over 200 million tires are discarded annually. More than half of them are burned for their fuel value. The rest are thrown in large stockpiles, because they are not desired at landfills due to their 75% void space and large volumes. Tires can be reused in many different ways, however. For starters, rubber makes excellent construction material. In fact, entire homes can be built with whole tires by covering them with concrete. Tires can also be used together to create a barrier that should help control erosion, and can even act as a break-wall on the water. Ground rubber can be used in both mold-able products and paving type projects. They can also be made into moveable speed bumps, rubber tiles, sidewalks, livestock mats, railroad crossing blocks, patio decks, dock bumpers, flooring materials, and carpet padding or underlay. By recycling old tires, we can help reduce the amount of waste in the world, and in turn use less natural rubber each year, both of which are beneficial.