Michelin made a statement on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, at the Movin’ On 2018 conference in Montreal when it announced its goal of recycling 100% of all tires globally by 2048 and using 80% sustainable materials in the production of those tires, also by that timeframe.
“Recycling is very important,” explained Cyrille Roget, Group Technical and Scientific Communication Director, at Michelin. “Seventy percent of the tires in the world are recovered; compare that to only 14% of plastic today that is recovered.”
According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, 1 billion tires reach their end life each year, representing 25 million tons. Of that, 50% are currently recycled into other materials such as rubber for sport surfaces and 20% is used to generate energy.
Michelin tires are currently composed of 26% bio-sourced materials like natural rubber, sunflower oil, etc., and 2% recycled materials such as steel or recycled powered tires.
Achieving that final 30% will require plenty of work. “If we are able to reach these ambitions, we could save 33 million oil barrels every year,” Roget said. That is equivalent to one months’ energy usage in France, he added.
Michelin will be unable to achieve this on its own, Roget pointed out, naming several partners the global tire maker is currently working with to advance toward this objective, including Lehigh Technologies, Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles.
To reach its goal, Roget said Michelin will deploy a “high-technology approach.” This includes research ongoing projects such as Biobutterfly to identify new source materials. Michelin’s Biobutterfly project seeks to identify alternatives to oil-based materials for tire production. It is investigating organic products such as straw, beets and wood as part of the project that includes Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles.
Another of those projects is being led by Lehigh Technologies, a specialty chemical company that is part of Michelin’s High Technology Materials Business Unit. Lehigh develops micronized rubber powders (MRP), which are sustainable raw materials that reduce feedstock usage by 50% and are used in tires, plastics, consumer goods, coatings, sealing and more.
On the recycling front, Michelin hopes to partner with companies to assist in collecting and recycling tires, including identifying new ways to recycle tires.
The new initiatives build upon Michelin’s Vision concept tire introduced last year at the Movin’ On conference. Vision is an airless tire made of bio-sourced and recycled products and features a connected eco-system within the tire that provides data and advice to the driver. Its bio-degradable tread can be renewed with a 3D printer.