Wild about rubber
The Amazon rainforest is the only place in the world where rubber trees grow in the wild. For generations, rubber tappers have made their living by extracting the milky sap (called latex) without harming the trees.
Rubber tappers are true ‘guardians of the rainforest’. They do everything they can to ensure the trees they depend on stay healthy. Every rubber tapper helps protect up to 300 hectares of forest as part of their work – an area equivalent to four football pitches!
Unfortunately, competition from cheaper man-made rubber and plantation rubber from Asia has made it harder to find markets for Amazonian wild rubber. Thanks to our supporters, we’re enabling rubber tappers in Acre to make the most of the forest’s precious liquid assets, and keep the trees standing.
One of the biggest problems facing the rubber tappers was that they had no way of processing the raw latex. They were forced to sell it to industrial processing plants for whatever price they could get.
We’ve helped build and equip small rubber-processing units in the rainforest, where the rubber tappers live. We’ve also given them the know-how to produce FDL rubber – semi-processed sheets they can sell direct to responsible manufacturers. So far, we’ve trained 60 rubber tappers and we’re aiming to train 30 more by 2015.
FDL rubber is used to make all kinds of items, such as soles for trainers. We’re helping the rubber tappers find new markets with manufacturers such as French shoe company, Veja
Currently, a kilo of FDL is more profitable than a kilo of beef, making it a viable and sustainable alternative to deforestation. By giving the rubber tappers the means to make a fair living, we’re ensuring both they and the rainforest are winners.
How we're helping
To date, WWF and Sky, working with the Acre government, have helped to construct 37 new rubber processing units and to provide training in how to use them. This new technology allows tappers to create FDL (the Portuguese acronym for smoked liquid sheet latex) – a high quality, semi-processed sheet of rubber.
Because FDL is already partially processed, it can be sold straight to product manufacturers. Previously, tappers would have to sell their raw liquid latex onto a processing plant for less money. This made it virtually impossible to make a fair living from rubber tapping.
FDL is today more profitable per kilo than beef, making it a viable alternative to deforestation. But the start-up costs are high so we're providing the basic technology and training needed to start making it.
Meet a rubber tapping family
Explore rubber tapping at Eden
Don’t miss our fascinating wild rubber exhibit in the Eden Project’s rainforest biome, Cornwall, which runs until 7 April 2015. Discover how Brazilian rubber tappers extract latex without harming the trees, and then process it to make all kinds of products. There’s lots to see and enjoy for all the family.