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The journey towards more sustainable rubber leads to Russian dandelions

November 6, 2015

The journey towards more sustainable rubber leads to Russian dandelions

Hannah Gould
Friday 6 November 2015 12.36 GMT

The life of a tyre begins with the rubber tree in south-east Asia, which produces around 90% of the world’s natural rubber supply. The tyre industry consumes around 70% of all natural rubber grown because it offers performance qualities, such as resistance and load-bearing capability, unmatched by synthetic alternatives.

Increasing car ownership in countries such as India and China is driving up demand for rubber. To meet this, recent research estimates rubber plantations in south-east Asia will have to expand by 8.5m hectares by 2024, with potentially “catastrophic” consequences for forests, primates and endangered birds.

The industry also faces supply chain risks. The reason that rubber production is so heavily concentrated in Asia is because commercial cultivation in South America is restricted by a fungal disease.

Dandelions: an alternative source of rubber?
To reduce dependency on the south-east Asian rubber trees, the search is on for alternatives. Research project Drive4EU is looking to the Russian dandelion.

Indigenous to the high plateau of south-east Kazakhstan, and the adjacent areas of China and Kyrgyzstan, the Russian dandelion produces a high quality of natural rubber and was used by the Soviet Union during the second world war to produce army vehicle tyres.

Read more at The Guardian.

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