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Natural rubber

Natural rubber

The Economist Intelligence Unit expects natural rubber (NR) consumption growth to continue expanding in 2014-15 at an average of 3.9% as demand recovers in several major consuming countries. This follows growth of 2.7% in 2013, according to the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG). Despite the quickening pace of consumption growth, it will not be enough to eliminate the substantial market surplus in 2014-15 and we expect that prices will favour consumers, especially in 2014. That said, heavy stockpiles in China and Japan will weigh against apparent demand as consumers there will be able to displace imports by drawing down on reserves. China will remain by far the world’s largest consumer in 2014-15, but other emerging regions, such as Other Europe, North America and Latin America, will also help to support consumption growth.

Supply

We have revised downwards our forecast for global rubber production in 2014 for a second consecutive month, as a combination of dry weather conditions across South-east Asia (where three-quarters of global rubber production is located) and low prices will result in lower output and production rationalisation. We now expect output to grow by just 0.1% in 2014, largely owing to a downward revision to our Thailand forecast, before bouncing back by 3.3% in 2015. Despite the weak growth in 2014, global rubber output will still reach a record 12.1m tonnes and will mean another year of sizeable market surplus. A notable further downside risk for 2014 is the deteriorating political situation in Thailand, given the potential for rubber farmers’ participation in recent social unrest to affect supply and for exchange-rate weakness to disrupt exports.

Stocks and prices

The net result of our increases in Japanese and North American consumption, and changes to the balance of production in South-East Asia is a slightly smaller market surplus in 2014, of 268,000 tonnes, compared with 294,000 tonnes previously, and 714,000 tonnes in 2013, according to according to IRSG data. The surplus will shrink again in 2015, as growth in global consumption will outpace that in production. (Producers will generally be wary of ramping up output following a period of good supply and falling global prices.) Even with these lower surplus levels, rubber will be amply available in 2014-15 and we expect the stocks/consumption ratio to stabilise above 14 weeks, its highest level since the early 2000s. Much of the excess rubber will be held in China by the State Reserve Bureau and will therefore be unavailable to the market, helping to temper somewhat the impact of the surplus on prices. There has also been stockbuilding at the producer end, as exporters are unwilling to flood the market at a time of low prices.

Despite a small reduction in the expected surplus in 2014 as a result of dry conditions in major producers and production rationalisation, recent bearish market conditions mean we have cut our forecasts for price for RSS3, a Thai benchmark grade used in automobile tyres. We now expect prices to average US$2,455/tonne, from US$2,498/tonne previously. Given the risks to the Thai economy posed by political unrest, it is possible that the price could fall further in US dollar terms on exchange-rate effects. Prices for SMR20, a Malaysian benchmark, are expected to average M$6,560/tonne in 2014 as a whole, down by nearly 16% on 2013 (when prices already fell by 18%). We tentatively expect prices to recover in 2015, but they will still be well off their high levels of 2011.

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Natural rubber production grew in 2013

KUALA LUMPUR—Natural rubber production increased 4.7 percent in 2013 among the 11 member countries of the Association of Natural Rubber Producing Countries, the ANRPC said.

Total 2013 NR production was 11.15 million metric tons, according to the February issue of Natural Rubber Trends & Statistics, the ANRPC monthly report.

Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines all revised their 2013 production reports since the January issue of Natural Rubber Trends, which caused the ANRPC to change its 2013 numbers, the association said. In January, the ANRPC said 2013 NR production was 10.95 million tons, up 3.2 percent from 2012.

Volatility in world markets caused NR prices to fall precipitously between December 2013 and February 2014, according to the report.

Standard Malaysian Rubber 20 (tire grade) stood at $231.76 for 100 kilograms in December, but fell 6.9 percent to $215.72 in January and another 10.5 percent to $192.98 in February, the report said.

Standard Thai Rubber 20, which started at $233.04 per 100 kilos in December, dropped 7.3 percent in January to $216.58 and another 10.5 percent to $192.83 in February. Rubber Smoked Sheets 3 in Bangkok started at $256.95 per 100 kilos in December, then decreased 8.6 percent to $234.85 in January and 8 percent to $215.95 in February.

Recent irrational fluctuations in NR prices may end soon, thanks to production shutdowns during the wintering season and encouraging growth forecasts from consumer countries, said ANRPC Secretary General Kamarul Baharain Basir in his opening letter to the February report. This can’t happen soon enough for NR growers, he said.

“Low prices have been depressing the livelihood of rubber growers, especially smallholders, whereby the affected group has increasingly showed its discontent,” Kamarul said.

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Is Rubber Flooring Eco-Friendly?

Is Rubber Flooring Eco-Friendly?

The ecological impact of rubber flooring is directly related to the type of rubber that is used. Understanding where it comes from, how it was manufactured, and how it got to your location is the only way you can truly know how green the material is.

Types Of Rubber Flooring

Synthetic Rubber Floors

This is the least Eco-friendly choice when it comes to rubber materials. Synthetic rubber is made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Despite this the process used to manufacture this material is actually quite energy efficient and low impact.

The draw of synthetic rubber is that these floors are more durable and longer lasting than natural rubber alternatives. While finite resources are consumed in their production this is balanced to some extent by the long life of the resulting product. In some cases this effect can be boosted by recycling the rubber floor at the end of its life cycle.

Natural Rubber Floors

This material is manufactured from latex, which is a sap found in para rubber trees, also known as Hevea brasiliensis. This same material is also found naturally in lettuce, dandelions, and in fig trees. Unfortunately some people are allergic to latex, and the installation of such a floor can be harmful to their health.

Transportation: Para rubber trees can be replanted each season making natural rubber an easily renewable resource. These trees are mainly grown in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Amazon rainforest. Depending on where you live you may want to consider the environmental impact of transportation from the location of growth to your own.
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Recycled Rubber Floors

These are the most environmentally friendly rubber floors. Made from recycled rubber such as that found in old car tires, this material helps to eliminate the build up of waste making it a low impact floor covering choice. The process of manufacturing is low cost, and requires less energy than is used in the creation of most other resilient floors. In many cases it is also the least expensive rubber flooring option available.

Recycled rubber is generally stronger and more durable than natural rubber flooring however it does come with a few caveats. Many manufacturers will not recommend its use in kitchens, laundry rooms, or garages, as it may be subject to staining from grease, petroleum, fats, and detergents. You should check with your retailer before deciding to use recycled rubber in a specific location.

Rubber Flooring’s Odor

One of the biggest drawbacks to installing a rubber floor is that there is going to be a slight smell. Because of this many manufacturers do not recommend installing this material in an enclosed space without proper ventilation. In most cases this smell is not harmful but it can make a poorly ventilated interior uncomfortable. You may also have to worry about those with latex allergies in the case of natural rubber, or the release of VOC’s if adhesive was used in the installation.
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Noise Pollution

This doesn’t necessarily have an impact on the world environment, but the sound insulation qualities of rubber flooring can make the personal environment of an interior more pleasant.

Flammable Rubber Flooring

This material is flammable and if there is a fire it will burn. This is another place where it is important to understand the chemical composition of the material. It’s flammability will depend on the elements used in its manufacture. A rubber floor that contains chlorine or other toxic ingredients is going to release them into the air if it catches on fire. That is why an Ethylene propylene diene based material is recommended as a viable alternative to PVC based rubber products.

Rubber Flooring Adhesives

By choosing loose lay or interlocking rubber floors that do not require adhesive you are eliminating the production and waste elimination of an extra chemical from the flooring process. If adhesive is used to install a floor it also makes those materials unsuitable for recycling at the end of their life cycle.

Some flooring adhesives contain chemicals that can offgas Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC’s), causing a negative impact on the interior environment of a room when used. It is important to question your retailer, and understand the properties of any adhesive which is used in the installation.
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The Lifecycle Of Rubber Floors

Rubber flooring is a long lasting resilient flooring material that can often last for twenty years or more. This can significantly cut down on the cost of waste and replacement needed for less durable flooring materials. Tiles have a longer life span than sheet rubber flooring. This is because individual tiles can be replaced if damaged with less waste cost than removing and reinstalling an entire sheet floor.

If adhesive was not used in its installation then most rubber flooring can be recycled and re purposed to other flooring when it is no longer needed in a single installation. This allows it to last far beyond its own natural life cycle keeping it from the landfill for years beyond its initial use.