Michelin aiming for 80% sustainable materials in tyres by 2048

The Movin’On 2018 sustainable mobility summit took place at the end of May and the start of this month, and during the event organiser Michelin announced what it calls an “ambitious plan” – to ensure all of its tyres will be manufactured using 80 per cent sustainable materials within 30 years, and that 100 per cent of all tyres will be recycled.

At present, the global recovery rate for tyres is 70 per cent and the recycling rate is 50 per cent. Michelin tyres are currently made using 28 per cent sustainable materials (26 per cent bio-sourced materials such as natural rubber, sunflower oil and limonene, and two per cent recycled materials such as steel or recycled powdered tyres). To increase the percentage of sustainable materials used, Michelin is investing in several recycling technologies.

The route to Michelin’s target of 80 per cent by 2048 will be achieved by research programmes into bio-sourced materials – BioButterfly is one example of this – and through utilising the advanced technologies and materials that are being developed in these partnerships. The BioButterfly programme was launched in 2012 with Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles to create synthetic elastomers from sources of biomass, such as wood, straw or beet.

A further goal is for Michelin tyres to contain 30 per cent recycled materials by 2048. Projects the tyre maker has already commenced to achieve this include its acquisition of Lehigh Technologies, a specialist in high technology micro powders derived from recycled tyres.

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, an estimated one billion end of life tyres will be generated worldwide in 2018, a figure that weighs in at around 25 million tonnes. From this total, around 70 per cent are recovered – with 50 per cent of the total recycled into products such as rubber used in sports surfaces and the remaining 20 per cent transformed into energy. By comparison, just 14 per cent of plastic containers or packages are recovered each year (according to The New Plastics Economy) and the car industry has a target recycling rate of 3.5 per cent.

New partnerships need to be forged to ensure 100 per cent recycling of tyres by 2048, and Michelin is looking into new ways to recycle tyres, as well as new outlets for recycled tyres. With this last point in mind, the tyre maker held a ‘Hackathon’ in 2017 in partnership with French tyre recovery company Alliapur to brainstorm solutions in which tyre granulates could be used. The winner of this Hackathon was ‘Black Pillow’, which suggested creating safe urban furniture made of tyre granulates.

Potential Gains

When all of these ambitions are achieved – 80 per cent sustainable materials and 100 per cent of tyres recycled – Michelin says the savings will be equivalent to:

• 33 Million barrels of oil saved per year (16.5 super tankers), or 54,000 GWh
• The total energy consumption of France for an entire month
• 40 billion miles driven by an average saloon (35mpg) per year
• Each and every car in Europe driving 140 miles (180 million miles) or 34 miles for all cars worldwide.

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