Natural rubber is indispensable in this time, from tires to condoms and medical devices. Almost all rubber originates in Asia on rubber tree plantations. The world population is growing, and so is the need for rubber. We have the solution.
Rubber plantations no longer enough
The expansion of these rubber tree plantations in Asia often costs parts of its rainforest. And Europe does not want to be completely dependant on imports of natural rubber. There is, however, synthetic rubber made of petroleum. Does this offer any solutions? Not really, because it is impossible to match the quality of natural rubber with the synthetic version. In addition, fossil fuels accumulate, so the use of petroleum will only decrease.
In collaboration with research institutes and international companies, Wageningen University & Research is working on the European project DRIVE4EU. This project focuses on a European alternative to rubber. DRIVE4EU coordinator Ingrid van der Meer from Wageningen University & Research, emphasizes how important an alternative is. A fungal disease did not allow large-scale cultivation on the original plantations in South America. If this disease finds its way to Asia, the production of natural rubber will be endangered. An alternative is therefore extremely necessary.
Latex can be found in more than 2,500 plants, but most are unsuitable for qualitative, large-scale production. The exception to the rule is the Taraxacum Koksaghyz, or the popular dandelion.
Quality rubber of dandelion
DRIVE4EU is working on setting up a successful production chain within Europe. Van der Meer is positive: within five to ten years, she accounts for a breakthrough. According to Van der Meer, the quality is no problem at all; this is similar to the usual natural rubber. Features such as grip on a wet road surface seem to be even better with dandelion rubbers.
Curious about how Wageningen University & Research contributes to a biobased, circular economy? You can read more about these topics on the Circular & Biobased economy theme page.
Share your opinion with us, under this article or through the blog about Biobased Economy.