You might think natural rubber only comes from rubber trees, but that’s not the case! Bridgestone announced that it has been able to get viable, useable, tire-grade rubber from Russian Dandelions! Bridgestone is part of a collaborative research group that has been trying to find alternative sources of rubber, with Bridgestone focusing specifically on Russian dandelions. The collaboration is named Program for Excellence in Natural Rubber Alternatives, and aims to find alternative sustainable and renewable sources of rubber. PENRA is based at the Ohio State University’s Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. They discovered that they can extract rubber from the fleshy roots of Russian Dandelion.
From 2014, the plan is to increase the scale of the research, including the size of the harvest of Russian Dandelions and actually attempting to make tires from that rubber. While a finished product may not quite yet be on our doorstep, we may someday be riding around on rubber from a wide variety of plants.
Rubber trees (specifically, the Hevea tree, currently the primary source for the natural rubber used in tires) are for the most part found in southeast Asia, so the prospects of using dandelions and other plants as substitute sources of rubber would mean that we would no longer have to rely so heavily on and strain the environment of one region and its less renewable vegetation.
You can learn more about all of Bridgestone’s environmental activities worldwide on their website.