“The answer to that,” said Cinaralp, “is ‘no’. Otherwise it would have been replaced by synthetic rubber already.”
Asked then about the significance of the listing, Cinaralp said: “First of all, it generates a positive political attention from the European institutions. I think this is important and can contribute to measures such as negotiating free trade agreements – to challenge trade-distortion measures – and to sustainable partnerships, in Africa for instance where there may be more potential for tapping.”
Another major factor comes back to the fact that Europe is 100% dependent on imports for the material.
“We can either source some locally, or more importantly, make sure that the source is not going through ‘unforeseeable’ conditions,” Cinaralp pointed out.
And this brings up the question of working on alternatives to conventional natural rubber, such as dandelion- and guayule-derived materials.
According to the ETRMA boss, there are “indeed possibilities” in Europe, with several active programmes in this area within the EU.
“We, as the tire and rubber industry, have made several commitments while there are individual initiatives going on as well,” she noted.
Asked whether the listing of NR on the European critical raw materials list would lead to increased EU funding for such initiatives, Cinaralp was positive.
“There are European plans for some projects which will be considered an absolute priority. So the answer is yes, it is possible,” said Cinaralp, noting that the search for alternative sources of natural rubber is in line with issues of sustainability in Europe.
“These are all signs that natural rubber is getting the right attention from European institutions,” the ETRMA leader concluded.