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The impact of natural rubber on the environment and people.

2 min read

An owner of a Spindle Latex Mattress asked us "what would spindle's response be to this BBC article critical about rubber trees and the environment?"

Thanks for sharing that article with us. Great topic.

We don't know enough about the African plantations so we started poking around. From what we can tell, a lot of the rubber coming out of Africa is used for tires. If you haven't already seen these, you may be interested in:

Your Spindle relies on latex from the rubber tree, hevea brasiliensis. These trees were originally only found in the Amazon rainforest of South America. Today, however, most plantations are located in the Asia Pacific (Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia) West Africa, and Central America (Guatemala).

Latex is considered a low-impact crop. Rubber trees have a life span of about 32 years. At 7 years, the tree is considered mature and ready for harvesting. Most trees will produce sap for about 25 years and then be used as wood for furniture or burned as fuel. Because the harvesting lifespan is longer than it takes for a tree to reach maturity, rubber trees are ecologically sustainable. It is possible to continually renew the rubber tree forest as a usable source without depleting the forest or plantation. To your point, that's not always the case, and there's nothing sustainable about destroying old-growth forest.

The rubber plantations our supplier, Mountain Top, works with are certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council [FSC] a project of the Rain Forest Alliance, which has strict guidelines around deforestation. Those standards are very similar to -- if not more transparent -- than the GOLS protocol based on USDA regulations. Here are copies of both the GOLSand FSC guidelines for your review. You can learn more at Control Union.

You'll find all kinds of latex mattress certifications and trust marks cited online [some have no grounding]. They all have loopholes and allow for exceptions. This white paper addresses how FSC was challenged on the adoption of a global standard and why some growers, regardless of their moral compass, may choose to opt-out of attendant certifications.

[Thanks to David H. for sharing this thought provoking and interesting article with us.]