Riding on its VISION concept tyre that it introduced in 2017, the Michelin Group has made a commitment to a future where its tyres are 100% sustainable. The VISION is an integrated wheel and tyre concept that is airless, connected, rechargeable and sustainable.
Michelin aims to achieve this sustainability goal by 2050. Currently, about 28% of the materials used in the manufacture of tyres produced by the Michelin Group are made from natural, recycled or sustainable raw materials.
A Michelin tyre is made from more than 200 ingredients, with the main one being natural rubber. Other ingredients include synthetic rubber, metal, fibers and components that strengthen a tyre’s structure, such as carbon black, silica and plasticizers (resins, etc). The combination of these materials provide an optimal balance of performance, driveability and safety, while steadily reducing the tyre’s environmental impact.
Michelin’s expertise in materials technology stems from the strength of its R&D capabilities, which are supported by a staff strength of 6,000, working in seven research and development centres around the world and mastering 350 areas of expertise. The work of these engineers, researchers, chemists and developers has resulted in the filing of 10,000 patents related to tyre design and manufacturing. These teams are constantly working to find recipes that will improve tyre safety, durability, ride and other performance features, while helping to make them 100% sustainable by 2050.
Michelin has also forged partnerships with innovative start-ups due to the speed and nature of innovation which requires new forms of cooperation. The developed technologies go well beyond the world of tyres and could be used in other industries, enabling them to benefit as well 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.
Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles, the two companies that are spearheading the BioButterfly project, have been working with Michelin since 2019 on producing bio-sourced butadiene to replace petroleum-based butadiene. Butadiene is one of the components in synthetic rubber. Further, 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.
Also, a partnership between Michelin and Canada-based Pyrowave was signed in November 2020. This partnership can produce recycled styrene from plastics found in packaging, such as yogurt pots and food trays, or in 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, the equivalent of 42 billion yogurt pots could be recycled into Michelin tyres every year.
The revolutionary process developed by French startup Carbios, which will be based on a Michelin site from Autumn 2021, uses enzymes to deconstruct PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic waste into its original pure monomers, which can be infinitely recovered and reused to make new PET plastics. One of these recovered plastics just happens to be the polyester yarn used in tyre manufacturing. Some four billion plastic bottles could potentially be recycled into Michelin tyres every year.
Lastly, Michelin announced in February 2021 that 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.
To learn more about the Michelin Group’s sustainability initiatives, visit https://www.michelin.com.my/michelin-durable-materials.