Interest in guayule rubber for medical devices and products such as surgical gloves was kindled by a wave of allergies caused by proteins found in hevea rubber.
Interest in guayule rubber for medical devices and products such as surgical gloves was kindled by a wave of allergies caused by proteins found in hevea rubber. US company Yulex has spent more than 10 years breeding and growing guayule with the aim of developing an alternative allergy-free supply. So far the only commercial product using guayule rubber on the market is a wetsuit range made by Patagonia.
Patagonia had been looking for an alternative to the synthetic rubber neoprene, whose manufacturing is energy-intensive and therefore environmentally damaging. "Once we had demonstrated technical feasibility for consumer products, that stimulated a lot of interest," says Yulex founder Jeff Martin.
Patagonia initially chose to avoid hevea rubber because of concerns about its impact on deforestation. Now it has found an FSC-certified source of natural rubber being grown in Guatemala. During this time, Yulex has developed a process of purifying the rubber extracted from guayule. Now it is using the same process to remove virtually all the impurities – including the proteins that cause latex allergies – from hevea rubber.
Patagonia is using this purified rubber to entirely replace neoprene in a new range of wetsuits. The company says it’s looking into reusing the material at the end of its life, to create other products, but hasn’t made any firm decisions yet.sustainable rubber rubber Patagonia Yulex Guayule