Today, the world-wide recovery rate for tires is 70 percent and the recycling rate is 50 percent. Michelin tires are currently made using 28 percent sustainable materials (26 percent bio-sourced materials like natural rubber, sunflower oil, limonene etc., and 2 percent 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 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 program was launched in 2012 with Axens and IFP Energies Nouvelles to create synthetic elastomers from biomass such as wood, straw or beet.
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 percent of recycled materials by 2048. This is demonstrated by the recent acquisition of Lehigh, a specialist in high technology micro powders which are derived from recycled tires.
Lehigh Technologies is a specialty chemical company that is part of the High Technology Materials Business Unit of Michelin. Lehigh is the leader in the market place for 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. Lehigh makes
sustainability an unbeatable proposition – we call it ‘Green for free’.
MRP replaces oil- and rubber-based feedstocks in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications, including high performance tires, plastics, consumer goods, coatings, sealants, construction materials and asphalt. Lehigh technical experts collaborate with customers to optimize products for each application.
Commenting on this venture, Christophe Rahier, Director of the High Technology Materials Business Line at Michelin said: ‘This acquisition demonstrates Michelin's strategic determination to capitalize on its expertise in high-tech materials, in areas that extend beyond the field of tires. In particular, by promoting the use of innovative recycled materials from tires in a variety of non-pneumatic industrial sectors’.
In 2018, according to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development it is estimated that 1 billion of end of life tires are generated worldwide, representing around 25 million tons. Within this total, 70 percent of tires are recovered and 50 percent are recycled every year on average. This 50 percent is the amount of recycled material, into products such as rubber used in sports surfaces, and the additional 20 percent is transformed into energy.
By comparison, 14 percent of plastic containers or packages are recovered each year (source https://newplasticseconomy.org), and the car industry has a target of 3.5 percent recycling rate.
Michelin is investing in high technology recycling so that by 2048 tires are 100% recycled for the vehicles of the future.