Vulcanized rubber is used around the world to make tires, shoes and other products that need to be hardwearing and strong. But what makes vulcanized rubber different from normal rubber, and is it biodegradable?
What is vulcanized Rubber?
Vulcanized rubber is made from rubber that has been treated with heat and the chemical sulfur. This heat treatment process changes the chemical structure of rubber to make it stronger, more durable, more elastic and improve its performance properties.
In summary, the molecular structure of vulcanized rubber has been altered, reinforcing the links between each molecule which creates a more desirable material.
Is Vulcanized Rubber Biodegradable?
No. Despite being made from natural rubber, vulcanized rubber biodegrades even more slowly and would take hundreds of years to completely biodegrade naturally under ideal conditions.
In a hot composting bin, vulcanized rubber will break down faster but will still take a significant amount of time. Natural rubber will degrade much faster in a hot composting bin.
Vulcanized rubber should be recycled so it doesn’t end up in landfill. Tires can be shredded and turned into new rubber products and can even be used to make cement.
Vulcanized rubber soles can also be recycled to create new shoes.
Is Vulcanized Rubber Eco Friendly?
Vulcanized rubber is a significant contributor to global pollution and deforestation.
The rubber production process is energy intensive and even more energy is required to produce the vulcanized variant.
Millions of tires are not disposed of correctly which also has a huge impact on the environment. Burning tires, dumping them in nature and even sending them to landfill are all problems that need to be addressed.
Sustainable rubber farming also needs to be promoted to reduce the impact on the world’s forests and natural eco system.
Rubber is one of the most important materials we use. Rather than replace it, we need to learn how to produce it sustainably and dispose of it in a way that doesn’t harm the environment.
This is even more important for vulcanized rubber that won’t break down naturally and lasts for years, contributing to global pollution.