CHARLOTTE, N.C.—If the tire industry is going to get sustainability right, it has to get every part of sustainability right. Not just in the composition of the tire, but the performance and end life as well.
Because sustainability without circularity or practicality yields nothing more than fancy tires.
"I would say that many of us in the industry can make a 100-percent sustainable tire right now. It will hold air, it will hold a vehicle," Russell Shepherd, director of technical communications at Michelin North America, said during the Smithers' Traction Summit July 26. "The real goal is to make a 100-percent sustainable tire with ISO performances—if not better—at a cost that our customers and our consumers can afford."
That is an incredibly tall order. But it is one that Michelin—as well as other major tire makers industrywide—are committed to doing. Last summer, Michelin marked a significant step forward on that journey, saying it had produced a racing tire that contained 46-percent sustainable and recycled content. In June, Michelin stepped closer to its sustainability targets, touting a race tire with 53-percent bio-based and recycled content that was used in the running of 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The achievements largely resulted from the increased use of natural rubber and recycled carbon black recovered from end-of-life tires. Other sustainable materials used in the tire included citrus rinds, sunflower oil, pine resin, and recycled steel and aluminum.
But Michelin also is determined to meet its aim of 100-percent sustainability, according to Shepherd's co-presenter, Jason Stravinski, CEO of Michelin-owned Lehigh Technologies. And 100-percent sustainability, Stravinksi said, must involve full circularity.