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Michelin backing tire recycling initiative

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CLERMONT-FERRAND, France (Jan. 30, 2014) — Group Michelin is venturing further into the realm of recycling, funding two projects under the "TREC" umbrella that are working on ways to reclaim scrap tires both mechanically and chemically.

The TREC (tire recycling) initiative has a budget of $69 million over eight years, Michelin said, including up to $21 million from France's Agency for Environment and Energy Management.

Led by Michelin, the TREC project aims to develop both mechanical and chemical recovery of used tires. The mechanical regeneration project foresees producing reclaimed rubber compounds that could be used in making new tires, Michelin said.

Group Michelin illustration Diagrams of the 'TREC' tire recycling initiative backed by Group Michelin

The chemical approach, called "TREC Alcohol," would allow the production of a chemical intermediate needed for the synthesis of raw materials used in making tires.

The alcohol approach will support Michelin's work on bio-butadiene under the BioButterfly initiative the tire maker announced last year. This would complement that project's work on deriving alcohol compounds from biomass such as sugars, wood, agricultural residues, etc., Michelin said.

The tire maker is working with France's Alternative Energies & Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) and Proteus — a subsidiary of specialty chemicals producer PCAS Group — on the alcohol approach, which seeks to obtain alcohol by fermenting synthesized gas derived from the gasification of scrap tires.

Michelin, CEA and Proteus will cooperate on all stages of research and development process, from scientific concepts through phase pilot, Michelin said.

For the mechanical recycling, Michelin is working with SDTech S.A. and Proteus to develop technology for producing micropowders that draws on both micronization and and selective devulcanization using biotechnologies, the companies said.

SDTech is an industrial company based in Ales, France, specializing in contract micronization, analysis and treatment of ultrafine powders, while PCAS is an international fine and specialty chemicals group based in Longjumeau, France.

Michelin did not spell out what investment it's contributing directly, but said researching new recovery methods is "particularly timely" in light of the projected growth in global tire demand, which in turn will drive demand for raw materials.

"Michelin's innovation strategy is always making the best use of raw materials," said Terry Gettys, director of research and development at Micheln.

"The TREC project is a perfect illustration of ecodesign, and we will make efficient new tires incorporating quality raw materials from used tires, thanks to the expertise of CEA, Proteus and SDTech."

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