Latexco NV, a latex supplier based in Tielt, Belgium, has completed an 18–month study of the environmental impacts of various types of bedding, finding that producing a latex core from natural latex requires less energy than making other kinds of mattress.
The study was authored by Patrick Vandamme, a tropical agronomist, director of the Centre of Sustainable Development at the University of Ghent and a member of Latexco’s board of directors.
Using life cycle assessment methodology, which is part of ISO 14040 environmental management standards, the company assessed the total environmental impact of its products and processes from the extraction of raw materials by ISO 14000–certified rubber plantations through to mattress disposal. The study also examined and compared the carbon footprint of four bedding constructions: 100% pure latex, synthetic latex blends (50% latex/50% polyurethane), 100% polyurethane foam and innerspring.
The study found that for latex cores, the highest energy use is during the vulcanization and drying process. Although production of a natural latex core requires double the quantity of material needed to make a polyurethane foam core, it needs only half the total energy. In addition, the study says, carbon dioxide emissions during the life cycle of a natural latex core are lower than for polyurethane foam and innerspring mattresses because rubber is a renewable resource and the total rubber tree biomass neutralizes about 90 million tons of carbon dioxide per year.