After decades of debate, experiments and investments into renewable resources, the rubber industry is now finally thriving on carbon neutral and carbon negative resources. To the delight of climate activists everywhere, in 2040 fossil fuels are diminishing in use, with advanced material technologies moving on to natural sources like the Russian dandelion.

It's estimated that more than 40,000 products contain natural rubber, however the sourcing of natural rubber has led to widespread deforestation over the years. This has inflated climate change, crop disease and led to a decline in profits, which had led many farmers to switch to other crops like palm oil.

With the future of natural rubber production uncertain, dandelion roots have gained popularity and are seen as a game-changing alternative. Without the use of chemical processes, these resilient weeds transform into a material with the same properties as synthetic rubber. They can be grown all over the Northern Hemisphere and can be harvested yearly, reducing transportation costs from Southeast Asia. Today, vast expanses of North America and European wastelands are blanketed in the yellow plant and global trading platforms have made it easier to buy/sell the sustainable resource globally. 

Dandelion rubber however does degrade over time and needs to be replaced more frequently than synthetic rubber. As such, chemists and engineers are looking at how they can genetically modify the dandelion to make it more resilient once it is produced into natural rubber. In addition, agri-scientists are now making lab-grown dandelions to reduce the amount of land needed to harvest and to reduce the chances of deadly diseases being transmitted to the incredibly valuable resource. 

Why did this happen?

Dandelion rubber isn't a recent discovery --with the help of soviet scientists, it was identified that the Russian dandelion could be used as a self-sufficient resource to make natural rubber, rather than synthetic rubber. During WWII, supply chains were heavily impacted and resources were hard to come by, so a natural product was favored. However, once the war was over, many countries went back to producing synthetic rubber as it was far cheaper than harvesting the natural material.  

The majority of natural rubber comes from Havea plantations in Southeast Asia and are not only linked to deforestation, but they are vulnerable to a deadly fungal leaf blight disease which can be detrimental to their crops and completely inhibit rubber production. The spread of this disease had prompted many to move away from relying on solely one crop and to start looking at alternative resources. This has thrown the Russian dandelion back into spotlight and is now in extensive use in everyday products.

Potential impact

The dandelion has often been overlooked as a powerful resource, however it is now helping to reduce the environmental impact of the world's most polluting and harmful manufacturing industries and rubber products. Agri-scientists, farmers and government bodies are now looking at how they can further commercialize the production and scale of the Russian dandelion to further reduce the reliance on synthetic rubbers. 


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Vikram Ramankutty

Vikram Ramankutty

KPMG in Dublin

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