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Michelin reveals plan to increase bio-based components and recycling in tyres

France-headed global tyre manufacturer Michelin revealed during its Movin’On 2018 event an ambitious plan to ensure that by 2048, all of its tyres will be manufactured using 80 percent sustainable materials and 100 percent of all tyres will be recycled.

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Michelin revealed during its Movin’On 2018 event an ambitious plan to ensure that by 2048, all of its tyres will be manufactured using 80 percent sustainable materials and 100 percent of all tyres will be recycled (image courtesy Michelin).

According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), an estimated 1 billion end-of-life tyres (ELT) will be generated worldwide in 2018, representing around 25 million tonnes.

Currently, the global recovery rate for tyres is 70 percent with 50 percent of the material recycled and used in products such as rubber used in sports surfaces, and 20 percent is energy recovery.

According to Michelin, its tyres are currently made using 28 percent sustainable materials  – 26 percent bio-sourced materials such as natural rubber, sunflower oil and limonene and 2 percent recycled materials such as steel or recycled powdered tyres.

For a sustainable future, Michelin is investing in “high technology recycling” to be able to increase this content to 80 percent sustainable materials and tyres that are 100 percent recycled for the vehicles of the future.

To achieve these ambitions, Michelin proposes to develop partnerships and identify new ways to recycle tyres or new outlets for recycled tyres.

The route to this “ambitious sustainable material target” will be achieved by research programmes into bio-sourced materials like Biobutterfly and working with Michelin’s high-level partners, and the advanced technologies and materials that are being developed in these partnerships.

The Biobutterfly programme was launched in 2012 with Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles to create synthetic elastomers from biomass such as wood, straw or beetroot. Michelin is developing innovative solutions today in order to integrate more and more recycled and renewable materials in its tyres, while continuing to improve performance, including 30 percent of recycled materials by 2048 (image courtesy Axens).

Lehigh Technologies acquisition

This, the company says, is demonstrated by the recent acquisition of Lehigh Technologies Inc., a US-based speciality chemical company and a specialist in high technology micro powders which are derived from recycled tyres.

Now part of the High Technology Materials Business Unit of Michelin, Lehigh is the leading producer of Micronized Rubber Powders (MRP), a sustainable raw material that reduces feedstock costs by up to 50 percent and delivers performance without compromise across a wide range of markets.

MRP replaces oil- and rubber-based feedstocks in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications, including high-performance tyres, plastics, consumer goods, coatings, sealants, construction materials and asphalt.

Lehigh technical experts collaborate with customers to optimize products for each application.

Lehigh operates the world’s largest MRP manufacturing plant in Tucker, Georgia, with an annual production capacity of 54 000 tonnes.

Lehigh’s state-of-the-art 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.

Designing a Michelin tyre using CAD (image courtesy Michelin).

In addition, Lehigh Spain, a joint venture (JV) 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 the summer of 2018.

This acquisition demonstrates Michelin’s strategic determination to capitalize on its expertise in high-tech materials, in areas that extend beyond the field of tyres. In particular, by promoting the use of innovative recycled materials from tyres in a variety of non-pneumatic industrial sectors, said Christophe Rahier, Director of the High Technology Materials. Business Line at Michelin.

VISION Concept

Last year at Movin’On, Michelin revealed its innovative VISION concept. Advanced materials and 3D printing technologies will be used to manufacture and renew the tread of this mobility solution which will mean that it is 100 percent recyclable.

The features of this concept which enhance its sustainability credentials:

  • An airless tyre made of bio-sourced and recycled products
  • A connected eco-system within the tyre, providing services and advice to the driver
  • A bio-degradable tread that can be renewed with a 3D printer
  • A mobility solution that reduces the environmental footprint of car journeys

When all of these ambitions are achieved – 80 percent sustainable materials and 100 percent of tyres recycled – Michelin estimates that the savings will be equivalent to 33 million barrels of oil per annum or 54 TWh which is about one month’s total energy consumption in France.

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