Michelin Group is committed to making its tyres 100 percent sustainable by 2050. All tyres will be made entirely from renewable, recycled, bio-sourced or otherwise sustainable materials by this date. The inspiration came from their VISON concept tyre which was introduced in 2017. It was an airless, connected, rechargeable and entirely sustainable solution.
Today, 28 percent of the components used in the manufacture of tyres produced by the Michelin Group are already made from natural, recycled or otherwise sustainable raw materials.
Tyres are high-tech products and Michelin use more than 200 ingredients to create them. The main one is natural rubber but the many other ingredients include synthetic rubber, metal, fibres and components that strengthen a tyre’s structure. These structural components include carbon black, silica. plasticisers and resins.
Incorporated in perfect proportions, these materials interact to deliver an optimal balance of performance, driveability and safety, while steadily reducing the tyre’s environmental impact.
Michelin reveals how to make a tyre 100 percent sustainable:
Michelin plans to meet this objective with its powerful research and developments capabilities and its mature understanding of materials technology. This is supported by 6,000 people working in seven research and development centres around the world and mastering 350 areas of expertise.
The commitment of these engineers, researchers, chemists and developers has led to the filing of 10,000 patents covering tyre design and manufacturing. They’re working hard to find the recipes that will improve tyre safety, durability, ride and other performance features, while helping to make them 100 percent sustainable by 2050.
Michelin are also working hard with innovative companies and have forged partnerships with innovative start-ups whose advances offer unlimited prospects. The developed technologies go well beyond the world of tyres and could be used in other industries too.
Working in this way also enables them to benefit from recovered raw materials that are infinitely reusable. These technologies will also make it possible to recycle polystyrene and recover carbon black or pyrolysis oil from used tyres.
Companies Michelin have been collaborating with include Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles. These two companies are spearheading the BioButterfly project and have been working with Michelin since 2019 on producing bio-sourced butadiene to replace petroleum-based butadiene. Using the biomass from wood, rice husks, leaves, corn stalks and other plant waste, 4.2 million tonnes of wood chips could be incorporated into Michelin tyres every year.
A working partnership with Pyrowave that started in 2020 has led to the production of recycled styrene from plastics found in packaging. These include yoghurt pots food trays and insulating panels.
Styrene is an important monomer used to manufacture not only polystyrene but also synthetic rubber for tyres and a wide variety of consumer goods. Eventually, tens of thousands of tonnes of polystyrene waste could be recycled back into its original products as well as into Michelin tires every year.
Michelin’s work with french start-up, Carbios, has developed the revolutionary process developed uses enzymes to deconstruct PET plastic waste. The process breaks it down into its original pure monomers which can be infinitely recovered and reused to make new PET plastics.
One of these recovered plastics is the polyester yarn used in tyre manufacturing. Some four billion plastic bottles could potentially be recycled into Michelin tyres every year.
Michelin recently announced it will launch the construction of its first tyre recycling plant in the world with Enviro. This Swedish company has developed a patented technology to recover carbon black, pyrolysis oil, steel, gas and other new, high-quality reusable materials from end-of-life tyres. It will enable everything in these tyres to be recovered and reused in several types of rubber-based production processes.
Michelin also supports the circular economy, as attested by its participation in the European BlackCycle consortium. This project, which is coordinated by the Group and financed by the European Union, brings together 13 public- and private-sector partners to design processes to produce new tyres from end-of-life tyres.