New Sources of Rubber Could Reduce Environmental Impact and Production Costs

Rubber has always been a product in high demand considering its versatility and seemingly endless applications. However, the production of many natural rubbers has proven to be costly, and may even have an effect on the environment.

According to, the Iranian organization Sadaf Petrochemicals Co., recently broke ground on a new emulsion styrene butadine rubber (ESBR).

The original styrene-butadiene rubber (SBR) is a mixture of two monomers, styrene and butadiene, used as a replacement for natural rubber and derived from petroleum; this synthetic rubber was created prior to World War II by a German chemist Walter Bock and Edward Tschunkur in 1933. As a result, the United States of America, during World War II, created the U.S. Synthetic Rubber Program to compete.

Sadaf Petrochemicals’ production plant plans to make five new grades of varying dry and oily rubbers, two of which will be used to make tires, and three to be used in plastics.

Overall, the plant will produce 136,000 tons of ESBR and export an estimated 50,000 tons every year. Foreign markets are expected to bring a lot of interest, such as China with a regular demand of 1.5 million tons of ESBR annually.

With $289 million of funding for their project, Sadaf Petrochemicals says they will be finished in 29 months with an environmentally friendly product that reduces the need to consume natural resources.

However, reports that the Cooper Tire and Rubber Co. may have found a way to bypass the consumption of previously used natural resources for a more abundant and controllable renewable resource rather than using synthetics.

The Cooper Tire and Rubber Co., will produce a prototype tire made with 100% of the natural and synthetic components substituted with those from the guayule shrub, native to the United States, by 2017.

“Beginning in 2017, the company plans to build a prototype tire replacing all the natural and synthetic rubber with guayule components,” said the senior vice president at Cooper Chuck Yurkovich. “We will know then if we’re successful. However, even replacing 10% to 15% of the components with guayule will be a big success, due to the savings on the use of natural rubber.”

Currently, 70% of hevea natural rubber (HNR) production is limited to rubber tree growing areas in Thailand, India, and Malaysia. This new type of rubber would consist solely of materials derived from the hardy guayule shrub most often found in Arizona and throughout the Southwestern United States.

Because the demand for tires is expected to double over the next 30 years, it’s estimated that an additional 21 million acres of land will be necessary to fulfill it by 2024, likely having a huge impact on the local environment.

The production of guayule will be able to help stabilize a rubber supply while simultaneously reducing price volatility, creating more jobs, and improving environmental conservation.

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