Taking forward the Vision concept introduced in 2017, which is an airless, connected, rechargeable and entirely sustainable solution, Michelin Group has now announced that it will be making its tyres 100 percent sustainable by 2050. The company states that today, nearly 30 percent of the components used in the manufacturing of its tyres are already made from natural, recycled or otherwise sustainable raw materials. Furthermore, a Michelin tyre is a high-tech product comprising more than 200 ingredients. The main one is natural rubber, but the many ingredients also include synthetic rubber, metal, fibers and components that strengthen a tire’s structure, like carbon black, silica and plasticizers (resins, etc).
Michelin’s R&D capabilities are backed by 6,000 people working in seven research and development centers around the world in 350 areas of expertise. The company has collectively filed 10,000 patents covering tyre design and manufacturing.
Michelin has also forged partnerships with innovative companies and start-ups with technologies that 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. 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.
Signed in November 2020, the partnership between Michelin and Canada-based Pyrowave can produce recycled styrene from plastics found in packaging, like 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 tires and a wide variety of consumer goods. Eventually, several tens of thousands of tonnes of polystyrene waste could be recycled back into its original products as well as into Michelin tyres every year.
French startup Carbios’s process uses enzymes to deconstruct PET 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 tires to be recovered and reused in several types of rubber-based production processes.
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