When Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber in 1844, could he have possibly known how it would change the course of human history? Like steel or plastic, rubber is an essential component of nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and its unique properties have expanded the technological possibilities across a range of fields—from science and engineering to art and design. It’s also proven to be a surprisingly eco-friendly material and an essential part of many environmental practices.
Here are five areas where recycled rubber products are helping to create a greener world.
1. Rubber Flooring
Recycled rubber is a great interior flooring option, especially for home basements, subfloors and commercial application. It’s a great insulator for concrete floors in unfinished rooms, and can absorb sound better than just about any other material. It also lasts longer than vinyl or carpet, and can stand up to high-traffic environments like warehouses or retail stores. Best of all, recycled rubber is porous, and is less prone to rot in the event of water damage.
2. Public Spaces
The Bloomingdale Trail, a recently opened walking trail and park system in Chicago, is a prime example for how recycled rubber can provide safe, inexpensive alternatives to less carbon-neutral materials like asphalt and concrete. The sides of the trail feature recycled rubber strips that reduce the impact on joggers and walkers. Additionally, the playgrounds located along the trail have bouncy rubber turf surfaces to keep children safe. Even the installation art is made of rubber material, including a giant dragon statue at one end that was constructed entirely of reclaimed bicycle tires.
Did you know that recycled rubber makes a great alternative to mulch? Although wooden mulch is a natural material, it’s also the byproduct of industrial timbering practices that can have a negative impact on the environment. It also decomposes quickly and needs to be replaced at least once a year. Not only does is look exactly like the real thing, it’s also far more resistant to harsh temperatures and weather and can last for several years. Rubber mulching also lets just the right amount of water and air through while providing ideal for coverage for discouraging weed growth around your flowers and shrubs. Recycled rubber is also perfect for landscape borders, edging and even patio pavers.
Rubber is a flexible, resilient material that is a vital part of nearly every manufacturing sector. From medical to municipal to engineering application, there is hardly an electronic or mechanical device that doesn’t rely on some rubber element. Although rubber has a reputation for being difficult to dispose of, it’s actually one of the easiest materials to recycle. In fact, companies like Apple Rubber are constantly finding innovative ways to recycle rubber into sophisticated seals and rings that protect the moving parts and connectors for everything from high-tech medical devices to heavy construction equipment.
5. Fashion and Design
From the runway to 4-star hotels, recycled rubber is quickly becoming a go-to material for professional designers and creative do-it-yourselfers looking for a green material to add to their artistic tool kit. From welcome mats to flower pots, it’s even starting to make it’s way into the home decor sold at many large retail stores. Trendsetting clothing stores like H&M and Uniqlo even offer sustainable lines of shoes and handbags that were manufactured using recycled rubber products. It’s the perfect marriage form and function, with a dash of sustainability thrown in for good measure.