Monday, March 14, 2016

The Great India Adventure: The Rubber Tree

A Rubber Tree Forest 
I can't tell you how many people have said to me, since I've been back from India, you mean rubber comes from a tree? Um, yeah...

And then I get follow up questions:

What do you mean rubber comes from trees? I mean, a rubber band is made from... uh, rubber?

How do you get rubber out of a tree?

I thought rubber was made from plastic, but you are telling me it is a plant?

So, one of the many ways farmers make a living in India is by farming rubber. We were lucky enough to see the rubber making process from start to finish. I have posted pictures and the steps (that I remember) below!

Step 1: Tap the tree. Unfortunately I did not get any pictures of our host's family tapping the trees. I think I was too busy trying not to fall over from the heat. Basically, in this step, they carve out a spiral wedge in the tree and place a metal slide from the cut tree, which pours the sap into a metal bowl, that resembles cast iron.
Picture of a tapped tree. 

Step 2: After letting the tree bleed for several hours, one of the farmers walks from tree to tree collecting the sap from the bowls. Once they have all the sap collected, they place the sap in a pan. The pan looks very similar to a paint pan. In the pan, the farmer mixes the sap with an agent that solidifies the sap.

Rubber Sap mixed with some solution to solidify the sap.
Step 3: At this point, the solidified rubber is taken to a contraption that looks like a super sized pasta machine, and is rolled through the machine to expand the rubber before they begin drying the rubber.

Step 4: Once the rubber is rolled out, it is hung on lines that look like laundry, to dry.

Picture of the patting out the rubber before the rolling process begins.

Step 5: Once the rubber is done drying, it looks like this. It is then sold to the rubber factory to make our everyday luxuries such as rubber bands, and such. 

Step 6: The trees are then covered with plastic band aids to try and heal the tree for the next tapping. You can get about 25 years production out of a rubber tree.

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