Whether sourced from natural rubber trees or derived from petroleum products, rubber has several sustainability issues surrounding it. Rubber made from natural trees almost always comes from plantations that do not use responsible agricultural practices (e.g. organic farming) and often have substandard working conditions, raising workers rights concerns. Issues surrounding synthetic rubber revolve around the use of petrochemicals, both as an input and for use during production. Of the two, rubber sourced from trees is more favorable for several different reasons. First it is made from a renewable resource. Second, it is more favorable from an energy use standpoint. Natural rubber requires approximately 15 GJ/ton for production vs. 100-200 GJ/ton for synthetic rubber.
When buying rubber products, always buy recycled. Recycling and reusing rubber has been done for a number of years. Recycling rubber using slightly more energy intensive means can result in making virtually any rubber product out of 100% recycled content. The following table gives general guidelines for rubber purchasing:
|Recycled||Yes||;Recycled rubber is the best choice for rubber products as it can decrease the use of petrochemicals, keep waste out of landfills, and decrease the need for rubber plantations.|
|Natural Rubber||Ok||This rubber can use over 10 times less energy during manufacturing and is made from a renewable resource|
|Synthetic Rubber||Bad||Synthetic rubber is made from petrochemicals, a non-renewable resource, and is much more energy intensive during manufacturing|
Rubber is often used in small quantities in office products and therefore does not represent a major sustainability issue for the office supply industry. However, as with all materials, constantly look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. Rubber is 100% recyclable and should never be discarded—always add rubber products and rubber parts to the recycling bin.