PARIS — Group Michelin is accelerating its drive toward 100% sustainability, pledging recently that by 2050 all of its tires will be made "entirely from renewable, biosourced or otherwise sustainable" materials.
The pledge contrasts with a slightly less ambitious plan announced in 2018 and reflects more recent moves by Michelin to tap into more sources of renewables. It also matches a goal announced by Bridgestone Corp. in 2012.
Michelin claims nearly 30% of components used in its production of tires today are mad from natural, recycled or "otherwise sustainable" materials. In 2018, Michelin disclosed at that year's Movin'On advanced mobility conference its goal to achieve 80% sustainable content by 2048.
The new target commits Michelin to use only sustainable raw materials for the 200-plus ingredients used in making tires, such as synthetic rubber, reinforcing fibers, carbon black, silica, plasticizers, etc.
A challenge, it noted, will be to ensure all alternative materials interact to deliver an "optimal balance" of performance, drivability and safety, while also reducing the tire's environmental impact.
To achieve this goal, Michelin will engage its materials-science capabilities, which are supported by around 6,000 people working in seven research and development centers around the world.
"They work hard every day to find the recipes that will improve tire safety, durability, ride and other performance features, while helping to make them 100% sustainable by 2050," the world's No. 1 tire maker said.
The research effort will also involve partnerships with external companies and organizations with expertise in areas such as polystyrene recycling and the recovery of carbon black or pyrolysis oil from end-of-life tires (ELTs).
Among such initiatives are:
•"BioButterfly" — a project that started in 2014 in partnership with IFP Energies Nouvelles/Axens to produce bio-sourced alternatives to petroleum-based butadiene.
"Using the biomass from wood, rice husks, leaves, corn stalks and other plant waste, 4.2 million tons of wood chips could be incorporated into Michelin tires every year," the group added.
• A partnership with Pyrowave Inc., a Canadian plastics recycling company, to leverage that firm's microwave-based chemical recycling technology to produce recycled styrene monomer from plastics packaging.
• A partnership with Carbios S.A., a French start-up that's developing an enzyme-based process to produce polyester tire yarn from polyethene terephthalate (PET) waste.
• A partnership with and investment in Enviro Systems A.B., a Swedish firm that has developed technology to recover carbon black, pyrolysis oil, steel, gas and other materials from scrapped tires.
Michelin and Enviro are building a recycling plant in Chile to handle large OTR tires.
Michelin also highlighted its participation in the EU-financed BlackCycle consortium of 13 public and private-sector partners, which is designing processes to produce new tires from "end-of-life" tires.
Bridgestone's pledge for 100% "sustainable" raw materials by 2050 was made by Chairman Shoshi Arakawa at the 2012 World Rubber Summit in Singapore.
Among the initiatives Bridgestone is pursuing to achieve its goal is research into natural rubber alternatives guayule and Russian dandelion, processes to develop synthetic rubber, carbon black and rubber compounding agents from biomass materials and practical application of new cellulose fibers to produce yarns that would substitute for petroleum-derived polyester and nylon.