What the upcoming rubber ‘apocalypse’ means for the U.S. economic system

Rubber is a critical raw material needed for car tires, personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves, and many more everyday products. Anytime you’re going anywhere, you’re using rubber. Now, supply chain disruptions have thrown the rubber industry into a tailspin.

“We could be on the cusp of a rubber apocalypse,” Ohio State University professor Katrina Cornish told CNBC.

Rubber producers are facing climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic, a destructive fungus and the fight for shipping containers.

The global economy remains dependent on Asia for 90% of the natural rubber supply. For example, the U.S. imported $140 million worth of natural rubber in March 2021 alone, according to Census data.

The global natural rubber market was valued at nearly $40 billion in 2020, and demand for rubber is expected to increase. One analysis predicts the natural rubber market could be worth nearly $68.5 billion by 2026. One reason for the increased demand? Car tires.

“We are using tires more and more,” Stefano Savi, director of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber, told CNBC. “The amount of mileage that we’re going to do as a global population is definitely bound to increase, and that’s why the demand for rubber is really continuing to increase.”

Watch the video above to learn more about why the natural rubber supply chain faces challenges, what natural rubber means for economies around the world, and what rubber innovations may look like in the future.

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