At the Movin’On 2018 mobility summit, Michelin announced its ambition that by 2048, all of its tires will be manufactured using 80% sustainable materials (recycled and renewable materials) and that 100% of all tires will be recycled.
Today, the world-wide recovery rate for tires is 70%; of that 70%, some 50% are recycled for various applications. Michelin tires are currently made using 28% sustainable materials (26% bio-sourced materials such as natural rubber, sunflower oil, limonene etc., and 2% recycled materials such as steel or recycled powdered tires). For a sustainable future, Michelin is investing in high technology recycling technologies to be able to increase this content to 80 percent sustainable materials.
The route to this ambitious sustainable material target will be achieved by research programs into bio-sourced materials such as Biobutterfly and working with Michelin’s high-level partners, and the advanced technologies and materials that are being developed in these partnerships.
Michelin launched the Biobutterfly program in 2012 with Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles to create synthetic elastomers from biomass such as wood, straw or beet. (Earlier post.) Butterfly covers all research and development phases in the process—from scientific concepts, to the pilot phase and validation on an industrial demonstrator.
BioButterfly was backed by a €52-million budget extending over eight years. The project was selected by France’s Agency for the Environment and Energy Management (ADEME) to receive €14.7 million in financing as part of the Investing in the Future program.
Michelin is developing innovative solutions today in order to integrate more and more recycled and renewable materials in its tires, while continuing to improve performance, including 30% of recycled materials by 2048.
This is demonstrated by Michelin’s recent acquisition of Lehigh Technologies, a specialist in micronized rubber powder (MRP) which are derived from recycled tires.
Lehigh Technologies is now a specialty chemical company that is part of the High Technology Materials Business Unit of Michelin. Lehigh‘s proprietary cryogenic turbo mill technology transforms crumb rubber material into micron-scale rubber powders of various sizes, including 80 mesh and even down to 300 mesh. Unlike other technologies, MRP is virtually metal and fiber-free, enabling its use in a wider range of advanced products. These applications include high-performance tires, plastics, coatings and roofing systems.
To put MRP size in context, this micron-size material has the consistency of flour and is smaller than a human hair in diameter. MRP is easy to incorporate into new or existing formulations, is compatible with multiple polymers and provides a smooth surface appearance on finished products.
MRP reduces feedstock costs by up to 50% and replaces oil- and rubber-based feedstocks in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications
Lehigh operates the world’s largest MRP manufacturing plant in Tucker, Georgia, with an annual production capacity of 54,000 tonnes. Lehigh’s Application & Development Center is also located in Tucker and serves as an innovation hub where Michelin conducts research and formulates MRPs in collaboration with its customers.
Michelin has five MRP product ranges so far, PolyDyne, MicroDyne, EkoDyne, Rheopave and Zenoflex, and continues to expand the range of solutions in core markets. Lehigh Spain, a joint venture with Hera Holding, is based in Barcelona. The first Lehigh plant outside of the US, located in Murrillo del Fruto, is under construction and will begin operations in summer 2018.
Recycling. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development estimates that in 2018, 1 billion of end-of-life tires will be generated worldwide, representing around 25 million tonnes. Within this total, 70% of tires are recovered and 50% are recycled every year on average. This 50% is the amount of material recycled into products such as rubber used in sports surfaces; the additional 20% is transformed into energy.
By comparison, 14% of plastic containers or packages are recovered each year, while the automotive industry has a target of 3.5% recycling rate.
Michelin is investing in high technology recycling so that by 2048 tires are 100% recycled for the vehicles of the future.
To achieve these ambitions, Michelin proposes to develop partnerships and identify new ways to recycle tires, or new outlets for recycled tires. A Hackathon was held in 2017, in partnership with Aliapur, the leader in the field of recovering used tires in France, to brainstorm solutions in which tire granulates could be used.
The winner of this Hackathon was “Black Pillow”, which suggested creating safe urban furniture made of tire granulates.
Potential gains. Should these ambitions—80% sustainable materials and 100% of tires recycled—the savings will be equivalent to:
33 Million barrels of oil saved per year (16.5 supertankers), or 54,000 GWh.
One month’s total energy consumption of France.
65 billion kilometers driven by an average sedan (8 L/100 km) per year.
All cars in Europe driving 225 kms (291 million kms), or 54 kms for all cars worldwide (1.2 billion cars estimated).