Continental ended 2021 by doubling down on its commitment to a sustainable future, a commitment the company has carried into 2022 and beyond.
After the tire maker signed on with HeveaConnect last year for responsible and transparent sourcing of natural rubber, the company followed up on this with a partnership in March with Project TREE (Transparent Rubber Ecosystem for Earth), a pilot initiative by Itochu Corp. The pilot is intended to promote the sale of more sustainable tires made from more traceable and responsibly sourced NR.
And by late summer, the company boasted the production of its Gravity-brand mountain bike tires all being entirely produced with responsibly sourced NR.
The tire maker and Australian partner Security Matters Ltd. also have developed new technology—"chemical-based barcodes"—that can help track the origin of NR used in tires and other rubber products.
The tire maker also is one of several major players in pursuit of a 100-percent sustainable tire.
Having already incorporated silicate from rice husk ash and plant-based oils, as well as its "Cokoon" adhesive technology that replaces resorcinol and formaldehyde in bonding applications, the company made a leap in sourcing sustainable materials for the production of tires with its ContiRe.Tex technology in April by launching volume production of tires made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate.
The technology uses recycled polyester yarn obtained from post-consumer PET plastic bottles and "completely replaces the conventional polyester in a tire carcass," the company had said. Through this method, a set of standard tires, for example, could feature around 40 recycled PET bottles.
In November, Conti began using recycled rubber materials produced by Waterloo, Ontario-based Tyromer Inc. in the production of tires, the result of a multi-year collaboration between the two companies.
In the alternative rubber sphere, the tire maker has expanded its research in dandelion-based rubber through its Taraxagum Project, which aims to cultivate dandelion rubber, known as Taraxacum kok-saghyz, and commercially scale the NR for use in all kinds of tires.
In September, the company announced a new partnership with German-based breeder Kartoffelzucht Boehm GmbH & Co. to gain "even greater clout" in the breeding of dandelions.
But what happens to the tire at the end of its life is just as important as what goes into it at the start for Conti.
In March, the company partnered with German waste-tire pyrolysis startup Pyrum Innovations A.G. to expand its circularity efforts, where Continental's tire waste disposal subsidiary, Reifen-Entsorgungsgesellschaft (REG), supplies ELT made by the manufacturer to Pyrum for recycling.
And for the fourth year in a row, Continental achieved the highest grade from the Carbon Disclosure Project in reducing carbon emissions along its supply chain, securing its place in the top 8 percent of more than 13,000 companies considered.
Conti is targeting 2050 as the deadline for using 100-percent sustainably produced materials in its tires and achieving climate neutrality along its entire value chain.
"We are convinced that sustainable and responsible business increases our ability to innovate and shape the future—adding value to the company and society," Claus Petschick, head of sustainability for Continental Tires, told Rubber News earlier this year.