Rubber tapping is the process by which rubber is gathered. An incision is made in the bark of a rubber tree, which cuts through the planting cycle to optimise the latex yield. Such monoculture plantations, however, have far less of an environmental impact than other examples, such as coffee and especially oil palm:
It is an environmentally attractive land use. Jungle rubber, being essentially old secondary forest, strongly resembles the primary forest. Its species richness is about half the level of the primary forest. Michon and de Foresta (1994) found that sample jungle rubber sites contained 92 tree species, 97 lianas, and 28 epiphytes vs. 171, 89, and 63 respectively in the primary forest -- and compared to 1,1, and 2 in monoculture estates. Thiollay (1995) estimates that jungle rubber supports about 137 (45% of them associated with primary forests) bird species vs. 241 in the primary forest itself. We would expect jungle rubber also to resemble primary forest in its hydrological functions.
Each night a rubber tapper must remove a thin layer of bark along a downward half spiral on the tree trunk. If done carefully and with skill, this tapping panel will yield latex for up to 5 years. Then the opposite side will be tapped allowing this side to heal over. The spiral allows the latex to run down to a collecting cup. The work is done at night or in the early morning before the day's temperature rises , so the latex will drip longer before coagulating and sealing the cut.
Depending on the final product, additional chemicals can be added to the latex cup in order to preserve the latex for longer. Ammonia solution helps prevent natural coagulation and allows the latex to remain in its liquid state. Plastic bags containing a coagulant have replaced cups in many plantations in Malaysia. This form of latex is used as the raw material for latex concentrate, which is used for dipped rubber products or for the manufacture of Ribbed Smoke Sheet grades.
Naturally coagulated latex, sometimes referred to as cup lump, is collected for processing into block rubbers, which are referred to as Technically Specified Rubbers (TSR).