MESA, Ariz.—Arizona state, local and federal officials joined top executives of Bridgestone Corp. and Bridgestone Americas Sept. 22 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony officially opening the Bridgestone Biorubber Process Research Center in Mesa.
Bridgestone broke ground on the 10-acre research complex in late May of 2013, according to Bill Niaura, director of new business development for Bridgestone Americas. The groundbreaking came two years after Bridgestone's decision to launch a research initiative to diversify the world's sources of natural rubber.
The new center is dedicated to research and development of guayule, a desert shrub native to Mexico and the southwestern U.S., as a viable commercial crop producing natural rubber for tires and other products.
Commercializing guayule fits perfectly into Bridgestone's corporate goal of manufacturing products from fully renewable and sustainable raw materials, according to Niaura.
Biodiversity plays a major role in Bridgestone's long-term plans for sourcing NR and other raw materials, Niaura said. Hevea brasiliensis is the world's only source of natural rubber, and 97 percent of it comes from Southeast Asia. Market fluctuations, embargoes and diseases including leaf blight are constant concerns with Hevea, he said.
But biodiversity and sustainability alone are not enough, according to Niaura.
“The challenge is to keep the performance,” he said. “We seek better performance, both for manufacturing facilities and for end-users.”