Archive for November 20th, 2012
A tree called Hevea brasiliensis drives the world – quite literally. Hevea brasiliensis is the world’s number one source for natural rubber, and though the primary use is in vehicle tires, it has hundreds of consumer and industrial applications. These include uses in building and bridge construction, medicine, personal care and transportation, and in many cases, it cannot be replaced by synthetic, or petroleum-based, rubber.
Most natural rubber, also called India rubber or caoutchouc, comes from latex, the milky tree sap of Hevea brasilensis. The trees are tapped by making an incision in the bark of the tree and collecting the sap in a bucket – a very low-tech process and much like the way maple trees are tapped to make maple syrup. The latex is then refined into natural rubber.
Rubber – and the trees that produce it – has its origins in South America, but today most of the world’s rubber comes from Southeast Asia. But supplies are shortening, which is driving up prices for finished products from all industries that use rubber as a raw material. And it is only going to get worse; the global shortage of natural rubber is expected to deepen this year, the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries has predicted. Read the rest of this entry »