MONTREAL – Michelin used its Movin’On global summit on sustainable mobility to announce it plans to manufacture all its tires using 80% sustainable materials by 2048. Currently, it uses 28% sustainable materials. The company is also committed to ensuring that 100% of its tires each year will be recycled by that same target date.
The impact of these moves will save 33 million barrels of oil annually – that’s equivalent to the cargo capacity of 16.5 supertankers or the fuel consumed by a typical sedan driving 65 billion km per year at an average consumption rate of 8.0 litres/100 km.
Michelin plans to achieve the sustainable materials target through advanced technologies, materials and research programs it’s developing with high-level partners. For example, in 2012 a program was initiated with Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles to develop bio-sourced materials such as Biobutterfly, which creates synthetic elastomers from biomass such as wood, straw or beet.
Currently, the company’s tires consist of 26% bio-sourced materials such as natural rubber, sunflower oil and limonene, with 2% recycled materials such as steel or recycled powdered tires. To continue developing ways to integrate more recycled and renewable materials in its tires, while continuing to improve performance, Michelin recently acquired Lehigh Technologies, a specialist in high-technology micro powders, which are derived from recycled tires. Lehigh is the market leader for micronized rubber powders (MRP), a sustainable raw material that reduces feedstock costs by up to 50%. MRP replaces oil- and rubber-based feedstocks in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications, including high-performance tires, plastics, consumer goods, coatings, sealants, construction materials and asphalt.
“This acquisition demonstrates Michelin's strategic determination to capitalize on its expertise in high-tech materials, in areas that extend beyond the field of tires,” said Christophe Rahier, director of Michelin’s high technology materials business line. “In particular, by promoting the use of innovative recycled materials from tires in a variety of non-pneumatic industrial sectors.”
To achieve its goal of recycling 100% of its vehicle tires by 2048, Michelin intends to develop partnerships, including with other tire manufacturers, that will identify new ways to recycle tires, as well as new outlets for recycled tires. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development estimated this year that about 25 million tonnes of worn-out tires are generated worldwide annually. On average, about 70% are recovered and 50% are recycled into products such as rubber used in artificial sports-fields’ surfaces. The remaining 20% is transformed into energy. By comparison, 14% of plastic containers or packages are recovered each year and the car industry has a target of 3.5% recycling rate.
To help attain its goal of 100% recycling of tires, Methods Michelin is developing an airless tire made of bio-sourced and recycled products, with a bio-degradable tread that can be renewed with a 3D printer.