Have you ever wondered how latex balloons are made?
Latex balloons are made from natural rubber which is a mixture of organic compounds and water. It is a milky substance that comes from the rubber tree (Hevea Brasiliensis). The latex is a renewable resource that can be sustainably tapped without harming the tree.
Rubber trees are tapped every couple of days. An incision is made into the bark of the tree and the sticky, milk coloured latex sap is collected and refined into a usable rubber. The process involves attaching a small bowl to the tree. A small diagonal cut is made on one side of the tree to just above the bowl. The farmed latex drips down the cut and is collected in the bowl. After a few hours the latex is poured into tubs and delivered to a factory where the latex is manufactured into balloons.
Vast forests of rubber trees around the world consume carbon dioxide which helps counter the effects of global warming.
Latex breaks down both in sunlight and water. This process begins almost immediately after a balloon is manufactured. Oxidation makes latex balloons look as if they are losing their colour. It is one of the first signs of the process. Exposure to sunlight quickens the process, but natural microorganisms attack natural rubber, even in the dark.
Research shows that under similar environmental conditions, latex balloons will biodegrade at about the same rate as a leaf from an oak tree.
More information can be found on the Balloon Artists website http://www.balloonartists.com.au/environment.html
It just so happens that my father lives in Thailand and has a rubber plantation. He was lovely enough to take these photos for me. The trees have a production life of about 25 years and they have discovered that the old trees make beautiful furniture.