Shortages of rubber, steel, oil and other resources to keep America’s war machine rolling were acute by the summer of 1942. Rubber created a special concern because the country was reliant on imported natural rubber. When Japan invaded Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, the U.S. was cut off from its chief source of this critical raw product.
President Roosevelt urged Americans to turn in old tires, raincoats, garden hose, rubber boots, bathing caps and so on at their local service stations, and the media supported the campaign vigorously.
In hindsight, historians say the rubber recycling effort didn’t help much because there wasn’t an efficient way to recycle natural rubber products. Although rubber recycling produced a fair amount of material, it was a slow and expensive process and the final product was inferior to virgin rubber.