Choices we make today will impact our future, and thus the sustainability of the rubber industry.
P.K. Mohamed, chief adviser of research and development of Apollo Tyres Ltd., delivered that message during his keynote address to open the ACS Rubber Division's 185th Technical Meeting and Educational Symposium in Louisville, Ky. The three-day event was held March 24-26.
“It is our responsibility to provide a healthy, clean, safe and sustainable lifestyle for our future generations for which they will be thankful to us,” Mohamed said. “Choices will be made today that will determine the course for the future.”
Mohamed said we should make choices that will sustain our environment, society and economy.
“Let all stakeholders put our hands together and commit to this,” he said. “Let's change our attitude and approach to achieve the same results.”
Change, Mohamed said, is the most important element to sustainability: “Change in our approach, change in our attitude, and change in our commitment. Change is difficult to process, but it is inevitable in a sustainable world,” he said.
Veteran of the industry
As the man responsible for all aspects of Apollo's research and development facilities, Mohamed knows first-hand the challenges of change. He has spent more than 46 years in the industry.
Mohamed discussed some of the challenges inherent in the tire market—including volatile resources and prices, and an increased global demand for high quality products—during his address, titled, “Sustainable Development: A Major Challenge to the Rubber Industry.”
He offered several ways the industry can deal with the volatility in price and availability of natural rubber:
• Accelerate the development of new species of natural rubber and increase the productivity per hectare of NR;
• Reduce manpower and mechanize the operation to explore non-conventional areas of cultivation;
• Establish robust manufacturing processes for the production of guayule and the Russian dandelion; and
• Develop rubber from bio mass, matching the performance of existing natural or synthetic rubber.
The challenges for environmental sustainability include product performance conflict, or enhancing the traction and mileage of the tire with minimum rolling resistance; issues related to material technology, specifically; governmental regulations; and disposal of worn tires.
Once the tire ends its lifecycle, Mohamed listed the opportunities that should be pursued: Retreading; cryogenic shredding; pyrolysis, or regenerating the materials; reclaiming and devulcanization of the rubber; thermal decomposition for tire-derived fuel; and development of sustainable, disposable methods.
Sustainable tire technology involves minimizing fuel consumption, as well as energy, air and water usage, Mohamed said, while maximizing reliability, durability comfort, performance and operational efficiency.
“We must ensure sustainable development through advance mechanism and methodology,” he said. “And we have to balance tire safety, customer satisfaction, profitability and regulations.”
All of us have a social responsibility, Mohamed said, to develop a strategic tool for managing business and environmental operations, which must be linked to our business goals. He said we must consider the long-term stakeholders in the process: employees, customers, supply chain partners and the community.
“In a nutshell, sustainable technology is minimizing valuable resources and maximizing the performance actually sustainable, and balancing the safety, customer satisfaction, profitability and regulations,” said Mohamed, a member of the Rubber and Plastic Institute of London and an area director for the Rubber Division. He is a past chairman of the Indian Tyre Technical Advisory Committee and Indian Rubber Institute.
Sustainability, Mohamed said, comes from within and from those around us. “Sustainability is our commitment to the environment, society and economy,” the Apollo official said. “It is a commitment from all of us.”
Mohamed used the myth of an eagle to illustrate the difficulty of real change.
Once an eagle reaches 40 years old, he said it must make a choice. Mohamed said it can either die, or it can retreat to a nest deep in the woods, where it must remove its soft beak, brittle talons and tarnished feathers, all of which have worn out because of age, in order to grow new ones.
The long, painful process lasts five months, according to Mohamed, but if the eagle successfully commits to the process, it can live 30 more years. The story, Mohamed said, provides an example of how we should approach our responsibility to sustainability.
“Only freed from past burdens,” Mohamed said, “can we take advantages of the present.”