The goal seems lofty indeed, but Michelin has allotted 30 years to reach it: By 2048, the French manufacturer wants to recycle 100 percent of its tires and to make tires with 80 percent sustainable materials.
This announcement was delivered in June during the three-day Movin’On green mobility conference in Montreal. The conference focused on how out-of-the-box thinking can make transportation more efficient for both people and things.
“Recycling is a key element for our strategy of circular economy. Just to let you know today, 70 percent of tires are recovered in the world—it’s huge in fact if you think about that. If I take another example, only 40 percent of plastics are recovered worldwide. [Half] of those tires are recycled into different materials like rubber, asphalt, soles for shoes, or construction materials,” said Cyrille Roget, head of scientific and innovation communication for the Michelin Group.
Roget articulated that reaching Michelin’s 2048 target is not something the company can accomplish alone. In the fall of 2017, Michelin acquired Atlanta-based business Lehigh Technologies, which specializes in breaking down and preparing end-of-life industrial goods for reuse. Michelin is also working with other high-level partners on a program called Biobutterfly, designed to develop alternatives to the oil-based materials currently consumed in the production process.
“If we are able to reach these ambitions, the savings could be huge. We could save 33 million oil barrels every year, or 16.5 super tankers of oil by using renewable and recyclable materials,” Roget said.
“This is the equivalent of an entire month’s consumption of energy of a country like France, so you can imagine the benefits for the planet by moving away from oil-based products and using biomass instead.”
Currently, Michelin’s tires comprise 26 percent bio-sourced ingredients including natural rubber, sunflower oil, limonene (a chemical found in citrus fruit peels), and 2 percent reusable materials such as steel and recycled powdered tires.
The news builds on the company’s Vision concept, an airless tire that utilizes a biodegradable tread capable of being renewed using a 3D printer, originally unveiled at last year’s event.
“This is why Movin’On, which is a summit of collaboration for better mobility, is a very good location to announce this ambition to action,” said Roget.
Benjamin Yong is a freelance writer from Vancouver, B.C. and a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/b_yong.