MONTREAL — Michelin has announced a bold twin goal of using 80% sustainable materials in the manufacture of its tires and investing in technology to enable the 100% recycling of its tires by the year 2048. The two corporate “ambitions” were presented at a standing room only press conference on May 30 at the France-based global tire maker’s second annual Movin’ On sustainable mobility conference.
The initiatives were detailed by Cyrille Roget, group technical and scientific communication director, who pointed out that Michelin will not tackle this effort on its own. “This is not something we can achieve alone,” he said. “We will need a lot of cooperation.”
To that end, Roget said the tire maker will leverage partnerships and make acquisitions. As Michelin sees it, the road ahead to its “ambitious sustainable material target” will be paved by research programs into bio-sourced materials, such as Biobutterfly, and working with the tire maker’s “high-level partners, and the advanced technologies and materials that are being developed in these partnerships.” The Biobutterfly program was launched in 2012 with Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles to create synthetic elastomers from biomass such as wood, straw or beet.
An example of an enabling acquisition by Michelin was also given: Lehigh Technologies, which produces micronized rubber powders. MRPs are a sustainable raw material derived from recycled tires that, according to Michelin, are used to replace oil- and rubber-based feedstocks in a range of industrial and consumer applications, including high- performance tires.
According to Michelin, right now the worldwide recovery rate for tires is 70% and the recycling rate is 50%. Meanwhile, Michelin tires are currently made using 28% sustainable materials (26% being bio-sourced materials like natural rubber, sunflower oil, limonene etc. and 2% being recycled materials such as steel or recycled powdered tires). To help reach its 100% recycling milestone, Roget said Michelin is investing in recycling technologies that will enable it to increase this content to 80% sustainable materials.
Michelin said when its renewable and recycling ambitions are achieved – 80% sustainable materials and 100% of tires recycled – the savings will be equivalent to:
- 33 million barrels of oil saved per year (or 16.5 loaded supertankers)
- One month’s total energy consumption of France
- 65 billion kilometers driven by an average sedan per year
The tire maker also noted that a year ago at this conference, it revealed its futuristic Vision “airless” tire concept. It is engineered from advanced materials and makes use of 3D printing technologies to manufacture and renew the tread— marking it a view to a tire that is 100% recyclable.