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Tire industry emphasizes need for sustainability

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Tom Rosenmayer ,Lehigh Technologies Inc.
Photo by RPN photo by Jennifer Karpus Tom Rosenmayer, vice president, technology, Lehigh Technologies Inc.

AKRON—One of the hottest topics at the recent International Tire Exhibition & Conference Tire for tire manufacturers in Akron was recycling, scrap tires and the sustainable aspects of the industry.

Many companies are working toward putting together sustainable programs to create more opportunity for tires to be reused instead of dumping them into landfills. ITEC held a recycling workshop in which industry experts discussed such programs.

Lehigh Technologies Inc.'s Tom Rosenmayer, vice president, technology, examined how the industry is changing its perception of recycling and putting more emphasis on the sustainability aspects of the industry during his presentation, “The Greenest Tire,” given at the recycling workshop.

Previously, the technology focus has been on the tread of a tire, he said; however it could be beneficial to investigate more components of the tire.

“For us, our mission is to grow that significantly, to double or triple that,” Rosenmayer said. “And also to see those materials being used in more than just the tread.”

Recycling more of the tire could have significant environmental benefits, he said. Companies around the world are seeing benefits of this technology daily.

“It eliminates waste, saves a lot of oil, saves a lot of energy,” Rosenmayer said.

It takes a lot of energy to create styrene butadiene rubber, he added, while it only takes 10 percent of that energy to take that compound.

Rosenmayer said Smithers Rapra defines the greenest tire as “a tire that is optimized for low rolling resistance and uses materials, especially elastomers, that are from a renewable or sustainable resource.”

Sustainability is a relatively fast-growing segment of the tire market, he said, and will continue to be for several years.

In order for a company to be successful, it needs to have evidence it provides at least equivalent rolling resistance in those compounds, Rosenmayer said. Otherwise, if rolling resistance is compromised with the use of its materials, than it is not really sustainable. The company would just be passing the energy use onto the consumer, which impedes the technology.

He said some of its customers in North America, Europe and Japan already are using new technology in their tires. Bridgestone makes Ecopia and Dueler Aleza Plus tire lines that use recycled content, according to information on its website, Rosenmayer said.

Additionally, many tire makers, such as Yokohama, will post a corporate sustainability report on its website to show how they are using these technologies.

Rosenmayer said the question to ask is: Where do we want to go? “Several things need to change along the whole supply chain.”

One way this can be improved is to organize massive tire piles better by sorting and quoting the tires.

For instance, Rosenmayer said, tires with high natural rubber content and tires with low rolling resistance compounds need to be separated.

He said Lehigh is working with the recycling industry to improve in these areas, but its main internal focus is the development of functional materials. Currently, 3 to 10 percent of tire compounds are being used for sustainability, but Lehigh's goal is to grow that to 10 to 20 percent of the full tire.

Rosenmayer said the company has initiated its Green Tire Program. Lehigh has added to its technical team, in terms of tire compounding and SBR polymer expertise and has invested in a state-of-the-art mechanical analysis machine, which is a rolling resistance prediction.

Scrap tire recycling trends

Denise Kennedy, president of DK Enterprises.
Photo by RPN photo by Jennifer Karpus Denise Kennedy, president of DK Enterprises.

Denise Kennedy, president of DK Enterprises, discussed scrap tire recycling market trends. Kennedy is active in California with recycling market trends and compared the state's trends to the U.S.

Kennedy said she was tasked with producing a catalog on this topic in California that will be updated on the state's website every couple months as it is being developed.

The recycling tire industry has changed drastically throughout the years, she said. She detailed the difference between the industry in 1974 to now.

In a pamphlet from the 1974 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. population was 180 million, compared to 350 million in 2013 (according to the U.S. Census Bureau).

The number of passenger tires that were retreaded was 46.5 million in 1974, she said, and today that total is significantly less, perhaps 500,000.

Disposal rates were about five to 20 cents in 1974, she said, and now they are anywhere from 50 cents to $1.75, depending on location.

During her presentation, Kennedy detailed 2013 California tire flows with the following breakdown: 29 percent exports (including used tires); 20 percent tire-derived fuel; 13 percent disposal; 19 percent ground rubber; 16 percent reuse; 3 percent alternative daily cover; and 1 percent civil engineering. In comparison to California's 19 percent ground rubber use, the U.S. average was 25 percent, according to 2011 figures from the Rubber Manufacturers Association, she said. With exports, the U.S. averaged 8 percent.

Kennedy said much information is available these days, especially in California. The catalog she currently is assembling will review various categories, including company sales products, resources, etc.

One area she detailed was the use of crumb rubber, citing recycled uses for crumb rubber made from California tires. The 2013 total was 111 million pounds, Kennedy said, and was used for rubberized asphalt concrete and other paving (45 percent); turf and athletic field (25 percent); loose fill, bark and mulch (18 percent); and molded and extruded (11 percent).

Bridgestone's Tires4Ward program

Debra Hamlin, Bridgestone
Photo by RPN photo by Jennifer Karpus Debra Hamlin, senior project manager—environmental, Bridgestone Retail Operation

Debra Hamlin, senior project manager—environmental, Bridgestone Retail Operations L.L.C., detailed the company's Tires4Ward Program during the recycling workshop. “The Tires4Ward Program is Bridgestone's commitment to building a waste-free tire industry,” she said.

“Bridgestone's long-term vision is for all tires to serve beneficial in uses after they are taken off their vehicles.”

The goal is to have no tires going to waste in the U.S.

The key to accomplishing this is with Bridgestone's retail organization, she said. With approximately 2,200 locations in the U.S., Bridgestone's commitment is that all tires removed from vehicles at its retail locations not go to a landfill and, instead, go to a beneficial use.

Retail locations not only are committed to the recycling effort, Hamlin said, but they also support community clean-up events. “This is Bridgestone's commitment to the environment, to be in harmony with nature, to value natural resources and to reduce CO2 emissions.”

The Tires4Ward program fits in with the in harmony with nature aspect and valuing natural resources and eventually the reduction of CO2 emissions, Hamlin added.

Tires4Ward started in April 2012, she said, and Bridgestone continues to partner with the River Rally Network in removing tires and hold community clean up events from coast to coast.

She said Bridgestone has partnered with recyclers to develop beneficial markets for scrap tires. With these efforts, Hamlin said, Bridgestone generates approximately 10 million scrap tires per year from its retail locations, has supported more than 380 community clean-up events and has recovered more than 90,000 tires, in addition to the 10 million from the stores during those clean-up events.

Bridgestone is committed to re-engaging its stores in the Tires4Ward program, Hamlin said, and to educate so people know where their tires are going. The company also is working to develop sustainable products and finding business models to address scrap tires.