Michelin has revealed how it plans to make its tyres from fully sustainable materials by 2050.

To illustrate their current and future environmental credentials they have produced and entertaining short film. You can watch it here.

The French firm says it currently makes tyres with 28% sustainable materials, but wants to steadily increase this over the next few decades.

Old, new and used again

Each tyre compound is made up of around 200 ingredients, with the main one being natural rubber. Others include synthetic rubber, metal, fibres and components that strengthen a tyre’s structure, such as carbon black, silica and plasticisers.

Employing 6,000 research and development staff, they are working to both improve the performance (grip, safety and durability) and the use of materials that are sustainably sourced.

Examples of how this is done include the firm’s work with various companies on the BioButterfly project. This sees petroleum-based butadiene replaced with a bio-sourced version using biomass from wood, rice husks, leaves, corn stalks and other plant waste.

It is also sourcing the styrene used in its synthetic rubber from a Canadian company called Pyrowave. They use a process to recover the material from recycled packaging such as yoghurt pots and food trays.

Cleaning up

Other projects include the construction of its first tyre recycling centre. Recovering construction elements means they can be re-used in new tyres, along with deconstructed, recycled PET plastics.

Tyre pollution is slowly gaining more recognition. As cars become cleaner through tight regulation, tyres continue to be unregulated. Independent emissions experts Emissions Analytics (EA) produced a report in March last year warning that tyre pollution could be ‘1,000 times worse than what comes out of a car’s exhaust’.

In 2019, the UK Government recommended non-exhaust emissions by road traffic be recognised as a source of airborne particulate matter. Testing by EA found a regular family hatchback with new, properly inflated tyres emitted 5.8 grams  of particles per kilometre.

That’s compared with a regulated exhaust limit of 4.5 milligrams per kilometre. Under-inflated tyres, poorer road surfaces or using a budget brand are likely to make the problem worse.

You can watch Michelin’s entertaining video here