HILTON HEAD, S.C.—The tire industry is doing a tremendous job on environmental issues, and Bridgestone Americas is doing its best to be the industry leader in “green” business practices.
That's the opinion of Robert W. Handlos, vice president of product development for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations.
“It's not just what we make that counts, but how we make it,” Handlos told his audience at the 27th Annual Clemson University Tire Industry Conference, held in Hilton Head April 6-8.
“One Team, One Planet” is the name of Bridgestone Americas' corporate program and a summation of the environmental philosophy it has held all along, he said.
The founders of Bridgestone Americas' two parent companies, Shojiro Ishibashi and Harvey Firestone, both had deep personal involvement in the conservation movements of their day, he said.
“One Team, One Planet” has ambitious goals, according to Handlos. The plan calls for Bridgestone Americas by 2020 to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from its entire product manufacturing line by 35 percent and rolling resistance from all its tires by 25 percent, he said.
The company also has a “Reduce, Retread, Recycle” program with the goal of recycling or retreading all scrap tires generated from its manufacturing and retail operations, he said.
“Last year Bridgestone Retail Operations recycled 99 percent of its scrap tires, with the other 1 percent going to a beneficial reuse,” Handlos said. “Our stores also recycle their used oil, batteries, antifreeze and other recyclable materials.”
Bridgestone not only respects the environment, but also takes cues from it, Handlos said.
“Our byword is 'biomimicry,' meaning that we use nature as the inspiration for everything we do.” he said.
For example, the paw of the polar bear was the inspiration for the tread of the Bridgestone Blizzak winter tire, he said.
Also, the ability of mussels to cling to rocks while pounded by waves is due to proteins that Bridgestone imitated to improve the wet grip of its tires, the executive said.
At the time of the Clemson meeting, Bridgestone scientists were scheduled to present a paper on this innovation at the April meeting of the ACS Rubber Division.
One of Bridgestone Americas' proudest environmental accomplishments is the Bridgestone Environmental Education Classroom & Habitat in Warren County, Tenn., Handlos said.
A collaboration between Bridgestone and Warren County Schools, BEECH allows students to learn about the environment through field studies and in an interactive, hands-on classroom, he said. BEECH won a prize as the 2009 International Wildlife Habitat of the Year, he said.
Meanwhile, the company continues to develop “green” products such as the Ecopia EP422 tire, according to Handlos. Made with post-consumer recycled materials and non-acetic oils, the Ecopia tire improves rolling resistance by 36 percent over previous Bridgestone tires, he said.
“Properly inflated, the Ecopia will save motorists $110 a year in fuel costs, or $443 over four years,” Handlos said.
Bridgestone Americas' 2007 purchase of retreading company Bandag Inc. also fit in with the company's overall green philosophy, according to Handlos.
Considering that it takes seven gallons of oil to retread a tire compared with 22 gallons to make a new one, Bandag has saved more than 4 billion gallons of oil in its 50 years in business, he said.