Lehigh – on the way to a billion MRP tyres
US-based green materials manufacturer Lehigh Technologies has been in business for just under a decade and claims five of the top ten tyre and retread manufacturers as its customers. The company specialises in the production of micronised rubber powders (MRP), produced mainly from recycled tyres. Its main tyre product for the tyre industry is PolyDyne, a specifically-developed material that is said to offer a significant cost advantage over SBR and natural rubber; using figures published in the Rubber Statistical Bulletin, Lehigh shows that, as of September 2011, PolyDyne was less than half as expensive as SBR and around a quarter the cost of natural rubber. Furthermore, Lehigh Technolgies says that every kilogramme of its MRP used saves around nine litres of oil and some 20kWh of energy in comparison to traditional tyres, while it releases less than half the CO2 of synthetic rubber.
The production of Lehigh MRPs began in 2006, and in June 2011 the company celebrated a significant milestone – the manufacture of 100 million tyres containing its products. To build on this foundation, the company launched its ‘Road to One Billion Campaign’. The campaign’s goal is to put a billion tyres containing Lehigh’s MRP on the road and to catalyse a broader, industry-wide effort to increase the use of sustainable materials and to reduce the amount of oil used in the production of new tyres. Since the campaign got underway the number of tyres produced using Lehigh MRP has passed the 150 million mark.
“Not only has the industry made great strides in reducing rolling resistance and improved fuel efficiency, but they have also done an incredible job of reducing the number of end-of-life tyres that are landfilled by developing beneficial uses for this highly engineered material,” stated Dr. Alan Barton, chief executive officer of Lehigh Technologies. “Lehigh wants to build on this progress by increasing the potential for use of sustainable micronised rubber powder in tyres to replace high cost, non-renewable virgin materials. Our goal for the Road to One Billion Campaign is to work with tyre manufacturers that are committed to sustainable tyre manufacturing, many of whom have helped us reach the 100 million milestone, to further reduce the carbon footprint of a tyre. This will require us to advance our technology to enable broader use of micronised rubber powders. We encourage the industry to join us in putting one billion tyres on the road that have been manufactured with alternative materials.”
Partnership with Dow Chemical
In the second half of last year, Lehigh Technologies entered into a partnership with Dow Chemical Company aimed at increasing tyre sustainability. Under the terms of the partnership, Dow and Lehigh have combined proprietary technologies to modify rubber particles. The programme combines Dow’s expertise in polymer chemistry with Lehigh’s expertise in sustainable rubber compound development and testing.
“This collaboration is a great opportunity to continue leveraging our latex polymer technology for a sustainable cause. Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals include a focus on technologies that are advantaged by sustainable chemistry and this project is anchored in that same commitment,” said Colin Gouveia, general manager, Dow Construction Chemicals. “Further, we’re excited to work with Lehigh’s unique market understanding and application expertise to develop solutions that bring value to the marketplace.”
“Our primary customer base, the world’s leading tyre companies, has been requesting advanced technologies to enable increased sustainable content in tyres,” added Dr. Barton “The Dow-Lehigh research program is part of a broader technology program at Lehigh, aimed at providing sustainable solutions without compromise. Our objective is to have one billion tyres on the road manufactured with our alternative material – our collaboration with Dow is a critical step in realising this significant milestone.”
Bringing MRP to Europe
So far Lehigh has covered a respectable amount to ground in its journey to one billion tyres, and in late September 2012 the company furthered the presence of its MRP products outside North America with the signing of an agreement with Spanish waste-to-resource company Hera Holding. Through the partnership, Lehigh will work with Hera’s Navarra-based subsidiary Indugarbi NFU to expand the company’s geographic reach into the important industrial markets of Europe and provide MRP for the region’s tyre, consumer and industrial plastics and coatings industries. Upon announcing the collaboration, Lehigh said the combination of its technical leadership in MRPs and Hera’s experience in bringing new materials into industrial supply chains will enable adoption of the these sustainable products by a broad range of industries in Europe.
“Hera is committed to the advancement of environmental excellence, managing waste resources and developing methods and approaches to repurpose those materials to meet the growing demand for sustainable products in Europe,” said Hera Group CEO Jordi Gallego. “This partnership with Lehigh is an example of how our company achieves this goal – we partner with innovative technology companies that are focused on sustainability and on transforming end-of-life material into new resources.”
As per the partnership, Hera Holding’s recycling plant in Navarra, Spain is being adapted to allow for the production of MRP. “HERA’s focus on technology innovation and collaborative approach complements Lehigh’s approach – assisting customers in developing MRP applications that meet cost, performance and sustainability targets,” said Dr. Barton. “Furthermore, Europe is an attractive geography due to the focus on sustainability, the receptiveness we have seen already to our MRP and similarities of applications and high performance requirements to other global markets.”