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.