The Rubber Industry Needs More Attention
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If you’ve traveled by car or by foot today, you have used rubber. This material is an unsung hero of daily life, as it is often included in shoes, other clothing, rubber bands (of course), and more. In the automotive industry, rubber is the necessary material for car tires.
Rubber is a finite resource, though, and we may be on the cusp of a rubber crisis. According to CNBC, several factors put the production of rubber at risk. Because rubber is such a commonly used good, greater attention must be brought to how it’s made and what issues it faces.
How rubber is produced
The auto industry now faces a new problem: a rubber shortage
To give proper attention to the rubber industry, it is important to understand how rubber is made. Rubber is a natural product that comes from certain types of trees. These trees produce sap called latex, from which rubber can be extracted.
Most countries in the world do not produce their own rubber. Instead, rubber is imported from Southeast Asia, especially from Thailand. Rubber farmers are mostly independent and operate on small plots of land.
Synthetic rubber does exist, but it is not a substitute for the real thing. Tires, the product most people think of when they think of rubber, cannot be made with synthetic rubber. This is part of why the supply issue is so complicated.
Why rubber production is threatened
Tree disease is one of the biggest contributors to the potential “rubber apocalypse.” The trees used to make rubber are usually planted within three feet of one another, and disease spreads quickly between trees. When new trees are planted to replace them, these take years to grow tall enough to produce latex.
COVID-19 has been another disruptor in the rubber market. Shipping lines have been greatly affected by the pandemic. It has been hard for small farmers to keep up with the changes in supply and demand.
A final factor in the potential rubber crisis is a shortage of shipping containers. This is an issue affecting other markets as well. Because almost all rubber is imported from overseas, though, it is hitting the rubber market especially hard.
The future of the rubber industry
Despite concerns, American car production has not been affected by a rubber shortage yet. However, more tires are being used than ever before, which adds to the growing fears.
These concerns, as well as concerns over climate change, have led some to rethink how rubber is produced. While synthetic rubber cannot be used for things like tires, alternate ways of rubber production may be possible.
One idea is to make rubber from plants, completely shifting production away from the trees that have always been used. This would allow rubber to be made in the United States. While this idea has the potential to help avoid a rubber catastrophe, it will take time before this can be fully implemented.
The tires on your car and the soles on your shoes are made of rubber. This material is important, but it is often not given the attention that it deserves. Perhaps by changing this and spreading awareness about it, a future rubber shortage can be averted.
Producing cars relies on materials like rubber, and unexpected shortages can have rippling effects on new car availability. The automotive market may be unpredictable, but your car insurance doesn’t have to be.
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