Rationale Of Natural Rubber

Introduction

Rubber is one of the components which are used in the fashion industry to develop various products. There are two types of rubber: natural and synthetic rubber. Natural rubber comes from latex, which is a milky secretion from tropical plants (Darmawan et al 2014). More than 200 plants produce latex. However, Hevea brasiliensis or the Para rubber trees are the most productive plants with regard to latex production. Synthetic rubber, on the other hand, is produced using petrochemicals. While rubber is used widely, the question of whether it is sustainable or supports sustainability arises (Warren‐Thomas et al 2015). In this paper, the rationale of using natural rubber with respect to sustainability, cost effectiveness, accessibility, safety, and historic preservation will be addressed.

Rationale
Sustainability

Natural rubber is harvested from rubber trees by making incisions on the bark of the tree and harvesting latex (Yi et al 2014). The harvesting is latex is manual. The harvesting process thereby does not involve use of chemicals. As such, natural is environmental friendly. With respect to sustainability, natural rubber promotes environmental sustainability. One way in which rubber helps to sustain the environment is with regard to its source. As indicated before, natural rubber is derived from rubber trees (Rasutis et al 2015). The process of harvesting it does not involve destroying the whole tree but rather getting it from the bark. This implies that harvesting of natural rubber has minimal interference on the natural ecosystem. The limited interference of the natural ecosystem when natural rubber is harvested is also due to the fact that the harvesting is done manually (Arifin 2013).

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Natural rubber also promotes environmental sustainability through limited mechanization. There is limited mechanization in the harvesting and processing of rubber. As aforementioned, harvesting of natural rubber is exhaustively manual (Dayaratne and Gunawardana 2015). This implies that at the harvesting stage of natural rubber, there is no emission of greenhouse gases which come from use of machines. The reduced use of machines in the harvesting and processing reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere which, in turn, helps to conserve the environment (Fox et al 2014).

Natural rubber also encourages tree planting which helps to sustain the environment. The demand for natural rubber has been growing over the years. As a result, rubber producing countries have been compelled to increase the level of production. Consequently, more rubber trees have been planted (Blagodatsky et al 2016). For example, between 1998 and 2004, the number of rubber plantations in Daka increased from 17.7 ha to 82.2 ha. In Menglun Township in Southwestern China, rubber plantations increased by 324 percent between 1998 and 2003. In general, there has been a significant increase in rubber plantations in rubber producing countries because of the increase in demand for the product (Darmawan et al 2014). The increase in rubber plantations has helped to sustain the environment by inadvertently combating deforestation. While the main of planting rubber trees is to increase the quantity of latex harvested, this has had a direct positive impact on the environment.

Apart from promoting environmental sustainability, rubber is also sustainable in itself due to its renewability. Rubber is a renewable resource because of new rubber trees can be planted when old one die (Rasutis et al 2015). The renewability of rubber implies that its production can be carried out indefinitely without destroying the environment.

Cost effectiveness

Natural rubber is a labor intensive product when planting and caring of trees is factored. However, since most of the work up to the harvesting point requires limited skills, the cost of production is lower as compared to synthetic rubber. In addition, most of the rubber-producing countries have an abundance of cheap labor due to high populations in these countries (Warren‐Thomas et al 2015). For example, China and India, which are rubber-producing countries, are among the most populated countries in the world. These countries have an abundance of human resource that can work on the farms at lower wages. In some cases, rubber is produced on a small scale. For example Daka and Menglun are two of the regions in China which are dominated by small scale production of rubber (Rasutis et al 2015). Most of the work under small scale production of rubber is carried out by family members and this reduces the cost. The low cost involved in the planting and harvesting of rubber makes it to be cost effective.

Accessibility

Accessibility of rubber might be a bit challenging due to the poor road networks in most of the rubber growing countries, particularly in rural areas where most of the rubber plantations are located (Yi et al 2014). However, this problem has been dealt with in terms of having collection points which are easily accessible. In addition, the increased level of rubber plantations has compelled governments in rubber producing countries to improve the transport networks (Fox et al 2014). This has made rubber to more accessible.

Safety

Natural rubber is largely a safe product because its production and processing involves fewer chemicals. For instance, the main chemical used during processing is acid. The safety of natural is not only related to the people but also to the environment (Blagodatsky et al 2016). Due to lower emission of greenhouse gases, natural rubber is promotes environmental safety.

Historic preservation

Production of natural rubber has limited interference on historic preservation. Rubber production, unlike production of resources such as oil and diamond, does not interfere with the landscape (Darmawan et al 2014). The limited interference of the natural environment makes rubber production ideal for historic preservation.

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Conclusion

Basically, natural rubber is obtained from the bark of rubber trees. While there are many types of rubber trees, the main one is the Para rubber tree. Natural rubber is an environmentally sustainable product because it does not only encourage planting of trees but also promotes limited emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Natural rubber is also cost effective because most of its production process involves cheap manual labor. Lastly, natural promotes historic preservation because of its limited interference with the natural environment.

References

  • Arifin, B., 2013. On the competitiveness and sustainability of the Indonesian agricultural export commodities. ASEAN Journal of Economics, Management and Accounting, 1(1), pp.81-100.
  • Blagodatsky, S., Xu, J. and Cadisch, G., 2016. Carbon balance of rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) plantations: a review of uncertainties at plot, landscape and production level. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 221, pp.8-19.
  • Darmawan, M.A., Putra, M.P.I.F. and Wiguna, B., 2014. Value chain analysis for green productivity improvement in the natural rubber supply chain: a case study. Journal of Cleaner Production, 85, pp.201-211.
  • Dayaratne, S.P. and Gunawardana, K.D., 2015. Carbon footprint reduction: a critical study of rubber production in small and medium scale enterprises in Sri Lanka. Journal of Cleaner Production, 103, pp.87-103.
  • Fox, J., Castella, J.C. and Ziegler, A.D., 2014. Swidden, rubber and carbon: Can REDD+ work for people and the environment in Montane Mainland Southeast Asia?. Global Environmental Change, 29, pp.318-326.
  • Rasutis, D., Soratana, K., McMahan, C. and Landis, A.E., 2015. A sustainability review of domestic rubber from the guayule plant. Industrial Crops and Products, 70, pp.383-394.
  • Warren‐Thomas, E., Dolman, P.M. and Edwards, D.P., 2015. Increasing demand for natural rubber necessitates a robust sustainability initiative to mitigate impacts on tropical biodiversity. Conservation Letters, 8(4), pp.230-241.
  • Yi, Z.F., Cannon, C.H., Chen, J., Ye, C.X. and Swetnam, R.D., 2014. Developing indicators of economic value and biodiversity loss for rubber plantations in Xishuangbanna, southwest China: A case study from Menglun township. Ecological Indicators, 36, pp.788-797.

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