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Eden Project: Wild Rubber

The famous Eden Project (a futuristic visitor attraction in St Blazey, Cornwall) lights up the skyline with its giant biodome greenhouses. Unusual plants from all over the world grow on a site the size of 30 football pitches, in a series of simulated climates, including the tropical rainforests and the warm Mediterranean.

The biomes have been built in a giant crater and the biggest, the Rainforest Biome, is a staggering 180 feet high and 3.9 acres across. The environmental visitor attraction has won the British Travel Awards' Best UK Leisure Attraction five times since 2011.

Eden Project

© PETRA / Adobe Stock


Project origins

The project was the brainchild of the Dutch-born entrepreneur Sir Timothy Smit, who also built Cornwall's second botanical attraction, the Lost Gardens of Heligan. He dreamed up the idea of building the amazing greenhouses in a clay pit in the early 1990s. Building work continued throughout the decade and the Eden project opened in 2001.

The attraction seeks to raise awareness of the unique relationship between the human race and the plant world, encouraging sustainable living to ensure our planet's resources are able to support future generations.

As well as the giant greenhouses, the Eden Project hosts music festivals, runs a global gardening educational project that's followed by children in four continents, hosts an annual winter festival at its undercover ice-rink and hosts many education courses and workshops for people of all ages.


Wild Rubber

The Rainforest Biome is home to one of the project's most fascinating attractions, the Wild Rubber exhibit. It charts the fascinating journey of the natural commodity, from the trees where it is gathered, to the production of many items.

Although everyone is familiar with rubber products, many people have never thought about where rubber originates. Visitors to the Rainforest Biome can see how wild rubber is tapped from the Hevea Brasiliensis trees as liquid latex, before ending up as useful items, such as elastic bands and Wellington boots.


Saving the rainforest

The exhibit has been created in conjunction with Sky Rainforest Rescue. The partnership between the broadcasting giant and the World Wildlife Fund is providing rubber production units to Brazilian families. This not only encourages them to protect the rainforest, it also enables them to have their own income to support their families.

The rubber production units contain the necessary equipment for pressing the liquid latex into rubber sheets. This means the local people can sustainably tap the existing rubber trees that grow locally, creating a number of small industries to harvest the latex, rather than clearing the rainforest to grow new rubber plantations.

Under the scheme, the local families get a fair deal price-wise when they sell the rubber to manufacturers and because it's already pressed into sheets, they can command a higher price. The Wild Rubber exhibit at the Eden Project brings this story to life in a lively and interesting way that appeals to people of all ages.

In addition, the SRR initiative has run schemes that support Brazilian families to make their soil more fertile, so that they will be less likely to use the traditional "slash and burn" agricultural method - this involves burning plants to make the soil temporarily more fertile.

However, this method leads to deforestation, which impacts detrimentally on animal life and other plant species in Brazil. It also increases the damage caused by global climate change for everyone on the planet.


Tapping rubber

The exhibit in the Eden Project reveals how rubber tappers employed to collect the latex from the trees make diagonal cuts through the rubber tree's bark. This doesn't harm the tree, as one side is done first, then allowed to heal, while the other side is tapped.

The rubber tree's sap, called latex, flows from the cuts in the bark and is collected in attached containers. It is then poured into large trays and is pressed into rubber sheets. Visitors to the Rainforest Biome can see sheets of latex being hung up to dry.

There's also a chance to see Lisa Cronin make sandals from an old tyre. This type of sandal is particularly popular in the Tropics, as it can outlast ordinary shop-bought sandals many times over.


Latest attraction

The latest addition to the visitor attraction is the Eden Project Hostel, which was launched in October 2014 for 228 guests. Every new addition to the Eden Project fulfils the aim of being eco-friendly, with ethical, sustainable and recycled projects at the centre of its ethos.

When you require top-quality rubber products, check out Coruba's collection of rubber matting and other products for many industries and applications. For further information, email info@coruba.co.uk or give us a call on 01702 560194 for a no-obligation chat.

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