How Rubber Becomes a Sustainable Material

Rubber, and in particular, recycled rubber, is gaining new attention as a sustainable material. This is because rubber, once thought to be the scourge of the recycling world, can be ground up and used to resurface roads and playgrounds and reused in many of the products we buy and enjoy. Rubber is as valuable a reusable and sustainable materials as bamboo and reclaimed wood. It took several years to realize its value and significance, but now, rubber has taken on a new role.

Rubbers Place in Time

For years, rubber was considered a waste material that had little economic value or use. Produced mainly as car tires, rubber had a limited shelf life in terms of its usefulness and once that was over, it dominated landfills and other ecosystems. Rubber is not a biodegradable material, especially after being processed, so it creates additional environmental hazards when burned or otherwise disposed of.

Rubber's New Use

As people began to consider the prospect of a world whose natural resources were dwindling at a rate faster than we could manage, rubber began to be viewed in a different light. The many roads and surfaces throughout the United States that were in disrepair and in desperate need of upgrade could be fixed with a ground rubber material. It was found that these new road surfaces were better for bad weather conditions and provided much-needed offset to the budgets of small communities and municipalities that were strapped for cash and in need of a solution to their infrastructure needs.

Rubber as an Economic Savior

With the advent of rubber as a repair material, playgrounds became safer, roads better and then additional uses were dreamed up for this new resource for a sustainable community. All of the sudden, salvage yards stacked to the sky with old rubber tires became venerable gold mines, whose tires turned fortunes and created a cottage industry unto themselves. Rubber became a way to save communities from losing jobs and hope amidst the ravages of a terrible economic downturn. Manufacturers and plants on the verge of shutting down sprang to new life with the prospect of milling rubber products for their new use.    

Rubber as a Sustainable Material

Now we know that rubber can be used in many ways and purposes. It can be used and re-purposed for protective gear. It can be used to pave roads and bridges. It can be used to create fibers for clothing and outerwear. Rubber has many uses and coming to terms with that makes rubber and recycled rubber products a valuable sustainable material. This turnaround story for a product such as rubber gives rise to the possibility that things once considered beyond redemption may now have a new life and a new purpose. In a sustainable world, imagination and luck is all that is needed to turn a once much-maligned and disposable product into an economically viable resource for the sustainable movement.