Tire Manufacturing Leaders: Environmental Protection is in Our Hands

The solid waste created from tire production is a major environmental concern. Key leaders in the tire manufacturing industry are tackling this problem head-on and taking steps to reduce resource usage, improve recycling efforts, and implement 100% sustainable production lines.

Tire manufacturing has a big problem.

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According to data from the EPA, the tire industry generates approximately 290 million scrap tires every year since 2003, with the number increasing each year. These waste products have a severe negative impact on soil, air, and water quality.

Heavy metals and other known carcinogens from old tires leak into the soil at landfills which contaminate soil and water reserves. These contaminants work up the food chain where they manifest serious negative effects on humans. Exposure to sunlight and heat can cause tires to leach toxic chemicals into the surrounding air. Solid tire waste itself is also at risk of overcrowding available landfills, which negatively affects nearby ecosystems and animal populations.

Another danger of tire manufacturing is the overuse and depletion of key natural resources, a major problem in light of the ever-growing demand for tire-based transportation. According to data from Statista, global demand for car and light commercial vehicle tires surpassed 1.6 billion units in 2018 and has risen by a steady 4.4% since 2013.

The total market value of the tire industry in the US was roughly 40 billion USD in 2015 and is expected to balloon to 60 billion USD by 2020. This explosive growth leads to the real worry that natural rubber deposits may be depleted faster than they can be renewed. This resource allocation problem is compounded by the negative environmental effects increased tire production has on the environment.

In the face of such environmental challenges and the looming issue of global climate change, several leaders in the tire manufacturing industry are taking active steps to reduce their environmental footprint through more efficient use of natural resources, more durable technologies, and implementing more sustainable supply chains.

As the global demand for transportation increases, we need more sustainable ways to manufacture tires, deal with tire waste, and better preserve our store of natural resources. Key leaders in the industry offer some solutions to deal with growing environmental problems.

Giti Tire

Singaporean-based tire manufacturer Giti Tire works with environmental community projects around the world. Chief among their projects with Conservation International has been freshwater preservation in China, habitat protection in Southeast Asia, and replanting damaged forest areas throughout Asia. Giti Tire is also supporting a shark-tagging project meant to gain insight on water animal habitats, movements, and the effects of tire manufacturing on aquatic life.

Giti Tire has also been at the front of a concerted effort to reduce energy and water consumption. Through improved automation, more sustainable materials sourcing, and more efficient energy consumption, Giti Tire was able to cut water and coal usage by almost half over the period between 2011-2018 and continues to make great gains in reducing their scrap metal and air emissions.

We contacted Giti Tire and asked about their efforts to reduce their environmental footprint.

  • What are the current projects Giti Tire has been working on in a partnership agreement with Conservation International? 
  • Giti Tire works with projects around the world to support environment in local communities. The company has supported Conservation International on projects for more than a decade, including freshwater conservation work in China, habitat protection in Southeast Asia, and replanting damaged forest areas. Giti is also currently supporting a shark-tagging project that includes the world’s largest fish, to help CI gain valuable insights on water animal life and movement patterns. The Executive Chairman of Giti Tire, Enki Tan, is also a member of CI’s Board of Directors to help with ongoing projects and direction.
  • What technical solutions has Giti Tire been implementing to reduce the adverse effects on the environment of the tire life cycle?
  • Giti has utilized a variety of technological solutions in its eight factories across the world to improve tire production and reduce environmental effects. This includes improved automation, better material sourcing, and more efficient energy consumption. In regards to energy, Giti Tire decreased its per tire usage of water and coal by 53% and 41% respectively from 2011-2018, while also showing strong reduction of scrap metal and air emissions. Giti also provides education to its employees, partners, and user fleets to maximize their energy conservation and efficiency through proper tire use.
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Bridgestone

Bridgestone received the Environmental Achievement of the Year award at this year’s past Tire Technology Expo. Much buzz was generated surrounding Bridgestones new HSR (High-Strength Rubber) polymer, the first in the world to mix rubber and polymer resins at a molecular level. This new HSR takes advantage of Bridgestones proprietary gadolinium catalyst to bond rubber compounds such as butadiene with resin components like ethylene.

The next-gen HSR is nearly twice as resistant to abrasion and an over 150%  higher tensile strength than natural rubber, making it much more durable and resistant to cracking. HSR is exciting from an environmental standpoint as it offers market level performance while greatly minimizing natural resource usage and extending tire life. Bridgestone believes its HSR polymer to be a key element of its plan to transition to 100% sustainable materials by 2050.

Bridgestone is also a founding member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Tire Industry Project (TIP), a global CEO-led organization of over 200 leading figures in the business world banding together to guide the transition to a more sustainable world.WBCSD provides a global network for companies to enact change. Through the WBCSD, Bridgestone focuses on working in the parameter of antitrust laws and coordination with other members of the value chain.

Other projects spearheaded by the WBCSD TIP included end of life tire management, Industry Environmental Impact & Measurement, and materials research for more efficient and long-lasting tire products.

We contacted Bridgestone to see what they had to say about their new HSR and role in solving global problems affecting the tire industry.

  • Bridgestone has received an award of the Environmental Achievement of the Year at the Tire Technology Expo 2019 at the Deutsche Messe, Hannover, Germany. The big success is Bridgestone’s newly developed HSR (High-Strength Rubber) polymer. It is the world’s first polymer to bond rubber and resins at a molecular level. Could you please tell us more about HSR polymer and its environmental benefits? When does Bridgestone plan to implement this innovation into the market? 
  • The new polymer, called High Strength Rubber (HSR), is a hybrid material to bond synthetic rubber components such as butadiene and isoprene, with resin components such as ethylene, at the molecular level by using Bridgestone’s proprietary novel gadolinium (Gd) catalyst (via copolymerization).

As a result, HSR is a next-generation material that combines the flexibility of rubber with the toughness of resin. HSR boasts unprecedented durability. Its crack resistance is over five times higher, abrasion resistance more than 2.5 times higher, and tensile strength is more than 1.5 times higher than natural rubber.

From an environmental perspective, HSR is promising as it has the potential to create the required levels of performance while using less materials and resources. We anticipate HSR will be a powerful asset for the company in achieving our 2050 goal of working towards 100% sustainable materials set forth in the Bridgestone Group’s Long-Term Environmental Vision as a part of its Our Way to Serve Corporate Social Responsibility commitment.

  • Bridgestone Corporation is one of the members at Tire Industry Project (TIP). Has TIP met Bridgestone’s expectations in cooperation with leading global tire companies in solving environmental issues? 
  • As a founding member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Tire Industry Project (TIP), we are proud to be a part of an organization dedicated to anticipating environmental and human health matters related to the tire industry and advancing solutions to challenges.

Some matters are bigger than a single company, so it is important to provide avenues for collaboration within the value chain.

Continued collaboration – both within the parameters of antitrust laws and in coordination with other members of the value chain – will be necessary to tackle global issues as they emerge in the future. TIP provides that avenue with a focus on ensuring matters are supported by sound science.

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In recent years, TIP has proven to be nimble in responding to emerging issues, such as when it led the creation of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber in 2018. We are proud to be part of this journey.

Goodyear

Goodyear was tagged as the second greenest company in the automotive industry in 2012 and has continued to make strides in reducing their environmental footprint. One of Goodyear’s main environmental goals is to reduce its total water usage by over a third by 2020. Goodyear has significantly reduced their water consumption via a smart and efficient cooling method that conserves water and lowers overall water loss during the manufacturing process.

“Goodyear continues to make progress toward our global goal to reduce water usage by 33% by 2020 from a 2010 baseline,”- a company spokesperson said,- “To reach our goal, we plan to continue to leverage closed-loop cooling systems and capture return process water and steam condensate to reuse and reduce the use of water.”

Water management is just one of Goodyear’s prospective environmental goals. Goodyear has also focused on eliminating the use of petroleum derived fossil fuels in their supply chain. “Goodyear continues to explore the use of bio-based materials, like soybean oil, that replaces 100% of petroleum-derived oil in our Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady™ tires. Our goal is to increase soy oil consumption by 25% by 2020 and fully replace petroleum-derived oils by 2040.”

Goodyear also plans to reduce energy consumption by increasing equipment efficiency and have set a goal of a 25% energy consumption reduction by 2023. “We work to reduce energy use through zero loss thinking and equipment efficiency, led by global, regional and plant engineering teams. Our goal is to reduce our energy intensity by 25% by 2023 compared to our 2010 baseline.”

Much like Bridgestone, Goodyear is currently researching new materials to increase the life of their tires. Goodyear’s goal is to reduce rolling resistance by 40% by 2025. “A tire with low rolling resistance and a vehicle with less weight consume less fuel and emit fewer greenhouse gases. At Goodyear, we always test our rolling resistance and weight reduction advancements in tandem with wet grip to ensure top performance in both categories. Our goal is to reduce rolling resistance by 40% by 2025 from a 2005 baseline.”

Goodyear is a member of the WBCSD TIP and has played an integral role in several of their accomplishments, such as

  • The launch of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR), a set of priorities meant to increase the socioeconomic and environmental performance of the natural rubber value chain
  • Tire and Road Wear Particles (TRWP), a project meant to assess and offer solutions to the effects of road and tire particulates on air, soil, water, and sediment quality.
  • End-of-Life Tires (ELT): A report providing management methods and recovery rates for waste tires in 51 countries and new beneficial uses of ELT.

We asked Goodyear about their work in the WBCSD TIP.

  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company is one of the members at Tire Industry Project (TIP). Has TIP met Good Year’s expectations in cooperation with leading global tire companies in solving environmental issues?
  • Goodyear is proud of the work achieved by TIP, including the following major accomplishments:

Sustainable Natural Rubber: TIP members helped transform the natural rubber supply chain, announcing the launch of the Global Platform for Sustainable Natural Rubber (GPSNR) in October 2018. Twelve months of stakeholder collaboration resulted in the development of a wide-reaching set of priorities to lead improvements in the socioeconomic and environmental performance of the natural rubber value chain. More information about GPSNR can be found at www.gpsnr.org.

Tire and Road Wear Particles (TRWP): TIP continues to study TRWP in a variety of environments, including air, fresh water and sediment. While our risk assessments and our studies completed to date demonstrate that TRWP are considered safe for human health and the environment, TIP will continue to gather additional knowledge.

End-of-Life Tires (ELT): TIP published a report on ELT, providing management methods, recovery routes and recovery rates in 51 countries (home to approximately 89% of the world’s vehicles) and presented new beneficial uses of ELT.

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Continental

Continental Tires recently unveiled their first production line bike tires made from dandelion rubber at this past year’s Tour de France and is expected to soon release this product line to all their tires. Their “Taraxagum” rubber is made from the fibers of the Russian dandelion and offers a more wide-spread method for cultivating natural rubber stores for tire manufacturing. Currently, most commercial tire rubber is made from the caoutchouc tree (Hevea brasiliensis) which can only be properly cultivated on a small fraction of the world’s land.

The Russian dandelion has a life cycle 7 times shorter than that of the caoutchouc tree which makes it much easier to plant and grow in response to demand. Further, a yield of one ton of dandelion rubber requires as much space as you need today for caoutchouc trees, drastically lessening the required space to manufacture enough rubber for market demands. Continental released its first Taraxagum truck tire in 2016 and it is currently being tested in Germany.

  • Continental has presented their first production bicycle tires made from dandelion rubber at Tour the France this year. When does Continental plan to present this innovation into mass production for various transportation?
  • Continental is aiming to have Taraxagum ready for series production in the next 5 to 10 years and then gradually introduce it into volume production.

Continental recently partnered with Kodsa to develop COKOON, an eco-friendly adhesive tech for textile fibers which eliminated formaldehyde and resorcinol from the conversion process. COKOON is publically available to third parties.

  • What similarly innovative concepts are being introduced in your other larger tire lines?
  • Continental and Kordsa jointly developed COKOON, an environmentally friendly adhesion technology for textile fibers, allowing to eliminate resorcinol and formaldehyde in the textile conversion process. Via an innovative free licensing open source concept, the technology is made available to all interested third parties. Details can be found under www.cokoon.com

Innovative and technically advanced equipment is used at the ContiLifeCycle plant to reprocess worn truck tires in a hot retreading process, which conserves resources. This uses around 50% less energy and around 80% less water compared to the production of new tires. The buffing that are produced during retreading are further processed into rubber recyclate, which is used in the production of new and retreaded tires. This can save 7,800 metric tons of carbon dioxide in the production process every year; the amount of waste is cut by 80%. The retreaded tires offer the same performance characteristics and rolling resistance as new tires.

Conclusion

The future of our economy and environment lies in the sustainable industry. Key leaders in the tire manufacturing industry have shown that eco-conscious solutions are market viable, and can be implemented in a reasonable time frame to offset expected negative impacts from environmental damage. Through better material sourcing, sustainable supply chains, eco-friendly practices, and waste reduction management, tire companies can greatly reduce their environmental impact and can set the stage for a more sustainable future in the automotive industry.

In the face of growing environmental emergency, the business sector is looking towards visionary leaders who can offer smart and practical solutions to the global problem that is pollution and environmental destruction. It is only through concerted effort and a shifting set of priorities that they can achieve this goal.

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