Natural Rubber & Production

A very brief history of rubber

Natural rubber was known to the indigenous peoples of the Americas long before the arrival of European explorers. In the 16th century it was reported that Mexican tribes people were  playing with elastic balls.

In 1876, a group of British businessmen smuggled rubber tree seeds from the Amazon to the British Botanical Gardens where they managed to create more durable hybrids that just happened to thrive in the British colonies in Southeast Asia. By 1910, the centre of the global rubber market shifted from the Amazon to Malaysia, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

The first use for rubber was an eraser or India Rubber as it became known. One of its early  applications was to make jars to ship wine. Other applications were for the production of flexible tubes and waterproof footwear.

Natural rubber is obtained through coagulating the latex produced by the Brazilian rubber-tree (Hevea Brasiliensis). This raw material is tapped from the rubber tree, which is native to Amazonia. In the 1830’s Charles Goodyear worked out how to vastly improve rubber beyond its natural state with a process called vulcanization, a process by which natural rubber is treated under heat and pressure to improve its elasticity and to enhance its strength and hardness. Once vulcanized, rubber becomes capable of withstanding punishing heat and pressure. Suddenly the uses of rubber opened up considerably — tires, hoses, shoe soles, fan belts — and this coincided with the Industrial Revolution. Later rubber was applied to the making of tyres for bicycles and motor vehicles. Charles Goodyear has been described as the inventor of the process which put rubber into the service of the world.

The Modern World

Rubber toys used to be commonplace in many homes.  They were soft and flexible, they would not hurt anyone, no matter how hard they were thrown. Children could twist them, pull them, distort them – but the toys would always spring back to their original shapes. Such were the elastic properties of this wonderful, natural material.

But then, for the last 50 years or so, the world of toys turned towards the use of plastics and other non-natural products for the manufacture of toys. Sometimes the results were unpleasant. Always, the results were not natural. The world of toys moved away from rubber which had and still has the following qualities:

  1. It is a material that is natural, made from latex that is harvested from rubber trees;
  2. It is a very soft and flexible material that is safe for children’s play;
  3. It has natural qualities of elasticity without the addition of unpleasant or toxic chemicals;
  4. It is a sustainable material. When a rubber tree reaches a stage when it cannot produce latex any longer, after about 12 years, it is replaced by a new sapling;
  5. Natural rubber is environmentally friendly as natural rubber products have a minimal impact on the environment. This is through all phases of the life cycle of rubber – harvesting, manufacturing, recycling, and so on.
  6. Natural rubber can be used very safely for educational purposes with young children.
  7. When combined with non-toxic paints it has all the appeal to children that should be provided to them by bright, soft, flexible, natural, sustainable toys that are very safe for play and learning.

Over recent times the worlds of toys and of educating young children have re-discovered the qualities and advantages of natural rubber. They have begun to value again the natural qualities of this wonderful material which offers substantial benefits over competing but artificial materials that do not contribute to a safer and greener world.

In the following sections of this part of our website, we will open to you some of the features of the process of transforming natural latex into rubber toys that, again, are enthralling and educating children.

All of the toys made by Green Rubber Toys are made in Sri Lanka from natural rubber, grown and harvested in Sri Lanka, by skilled and experienced craftsmen and women who take great pride in their work. Please have a look at the pictorial presentation of the manufacturing process that is shown in the following sections of our website.